June 2, 2016

Guest blog: The Good Life App - Confessions of the Digital Age

Elina Reponen

Innovation Manager, Kenno Ethnographic Consulting

How to lead a good life in the digital age, where we have become used to having everything in abundance: information, entertainment, options?

Choosing a career to pursue, a diet to follow, or a value system to live by, our decisions are no longer restricted by what we see people physically around us have done, and what we are accustomed to. Instead, online and in social media we get to see how people around the globe live and tackle the same issues. At the same time we have lost the sense of security that doing things by custom gives.

On their shoulders, individuals growing up in the digital age now feel the full weight of endless opportunities and making the “right” choices. Anxiety over perhaps having to give up on our dreams while doing what is expected of us, has been replaced by fomo, the fear of missing out, and anxiety of choosing the things that will make us happiest.

Digital role models to guide us

In order to maintain a sense of order and control, we are searching for guidance and social support from the mess that we call information overload.

We have started to look for social media role models that resonate with our goals and values. One of the most followed health and lifestyle role models is Jen Selter, a 22-year-old fitness model who has over 9 million followers on Instagram. Still, it does not even begin to compare to Instagram’s most followed profile, that belongs to the 23-year-old actress and singer Selena Gomez, who has over 80 million followers. People have always looked for role models in their lives, but now we are seeing a digitalization of it.

Social media role models entertain, but they can also inspire. Through video content such as vlogs, role models like Selter can also coach their followers to achieve their goals. Still, social media role models are more for inspiration because, even with increased communication, it is quite seldom that they love us back. For a more personalized motivation and feedback one can turn to apps and digital services that make an analysis of one’s own decisions.

Personalized to keep us straight

Digital services, like different wellness applications, can analyze the daily decisions we make between gym and couch.

Since there is a lot of content online, the user of course wants to know, what it all means for her. Heck, I would like to know how, with my genes, physique, and schedule, I could achieve my health, career and life goals. Personalized services that for example measure my activity during the day, heart rate during an exercise, or the quality of my sleep can help me train better for a triathlon, perform awesome at work, or help me feel better about my day-to-day life. Through personalized content these services can seriously motivate you, like having a personal trainer in your pocket. All I need to do is confess the amount of chocolate I ate and it tells me what to do, to make it right.

Philosopher Ville-Matti Vilkka compares these digital services to priests that can help one stay on the right track in life (Tuppurainen, Voi Hyvin 3/2016). In a way, they do relieve some of the weight from the shoulders of the individual, and transmit the responsibility of making good choices over to an AI or a set of algorithms. Vilkka poses an interesting challenge by stating that there are no sensors or services, that can tell you, whether you are leading a good life or not. To answer this, we would of course have to begin with defining what good life means for every one individually, but the challenge itself is tempting.

What do you think? With all the personalized digital services, are we getting close to a good life app, or will we ever be there?

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Elina works as Innovation Manager at Kenno Ethnographic Consulting. As part of the "Elo develops / Elo kehittää" project Kenno, Elo and Tieto Experience Hub co-operated in order to research the situation of entrepreneurs well-being in Finland. Follow the project and join into discussion #elokehittää.

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