Issue 21: The Dark Side of Meditation Apps
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Issue 21: The Dark Side of Meditation Apps

It's a brand new decade: welcome to the year 2020, everyone! In this issue of The Slow Scroll, we're taking a look at how digital has dominated the past decade, the problematics of meditation apps, and a few resolutions for the new year. 

'We've spent the decade letting our tech define us. It's out of control'

For decades now, philosophers and theorists have predicted a future in which our data is harvested and our attention is manipulated, and these systems have been critiqued ad naseum. Douglas Rushkoff argues that the point missed is "our tech has grown from some devices and platforms we use to an entire environment in which we function."

If our actual world has become digital, and our lives, careers and relationships depend on our devices and wifi connection—this makes it nearly impossible to unplug. Another problem with these digital worlds it that it allows everyone to exist in their own reality, which results in a "a television-style hallucination." 

The entire opinion essay by Rushkoff is worth reading, but the call to action at the end is inspiring—"We must stop looking to our screens and their memes for a sense of connection to something greater than ourselves... we must seize the more truly digital, distributed opportunity to remember the values that we share, and reacquaint ourselves with the local worlds in which we actually live."

Meditation apps are fueling tech addiction, not easing stress

One positive aspect of technology is that it makes accessible so many useful apps to better our lives. Hugely successful apps like Headspace and Calm have become wildly popular in our stressed out, burned out era—but are they actually making us even more addicted to our devices?

Two scholars of Buddhism, that specialize in social media research, say that meditation apps overlook the original Buddhist values and instead are "like an opiate that hides the real symptoms of the precarious and stressful state in which many people find themselves today."

Since the meditation app industry is worth $130 million and Americans spend on average of 5 hours a day on our phones, it makes one wonder if these companies consider their gains of us staying on our screens more than the benefits of us staying off.

IRL Prompt: Engage With Your Community

If you're looking for a good New Year's resolution (other than spending less time on your phone), try engaging more with your local community.

Whether it be volunteering, joining a community garden or meditation center, learning more about the natural landscape of your home or about your neighbors. These easy actions can help you be more present in the natural world.

Check out Volunteer Match, Meditation Finder, or organize a potluck neighbor dinner to get to know your community a bit more. Thanks to our reader Iris for the IRL prompt tip! 
Thank you for reading The Slow Scroll. As always please e-mail us here with any feedback, thoughts, or tips. Here's to a new year and decade!
Send this to a friend who needs to slow down. Then invite them to your house for a New Year's party, with no cell phones allowed.

Why ‘The Slow Scroll’?

Social Isolation is Killing Us. Tech companies are failing us. And we’re all hopelessly addicted to our screens.

Living IRL has never been more important.

That’s why we created The Slow Scroll, a weekly newsletter by IRL Labs, sent directly to your inbox (oh the irony). The Slow Scroll curates the latest and most inspiring content and resources, empowering readers to untether and live slowly.

Brought to you by...

Ivan Cash, Editor-in-Chief
Cyrena Lee, Editor and Lead Writer
Erin Ellis, Illustrator

Emily Lin, Producer

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