My working life is all about increasing our clients’ online presence and enhancing time online. We aim to maximise the experience for your online audiences and often, engage them online for longer. However, when I’m away from work, I wonder about the amount of time we spend online, particularly socially and recreationally and how it affects us.
The media frequently report dismal figures about our sedentary lifestyle, coupled with startling figures about the amount of time we spend looking at screens. In the TV series, Black Mirror, Charlie Brooker depicted a hideous view of the future where humans were trapped in a digital world, unable to escape giant screens and never setting foot outside. It was claustrophobic viewing.
But wait, there’s a positive point to this story! As a family we are lovers of the great outdoors and I have begun to be aware of how the digital world is enhancing our experience of the natural world – driving us to get outside and get active and providing us with a richer experience in the process.
Not long ago, being online was restricted to physically being at a desk with a computer. Your online life was pretty incompatible with your outdoor, active life. But smart phones and GPS technology in particular have thrown the doors open wider.
My husband is a keen cyclist and has a bit of an addiction to Strava the digital phenomenon which uses a mobile app to track athletic activity via GPS. As well as providing individual performance feedback and route information, Strava drives the competitive spirit and promotes social interaction with cycling (or running) enthusiasts the world over. My husband says he puts more effort into a ride if it’s on Strava, not only pushing himself against his personal best – but because the world (and more importantly, his mates) are watching in the digital sense.
As a family, we have enjoyed the wonder of pointing our phones at the clear night sky with star gazing app, Stellarium and proudly explaining to our young daughters what each of the stars and constellations we are looking at are called. We have more information at our finger tips and are able to give more answers to their inquisitive minds.
We also recently tried our hand at Geocaching. Outdoor treasure hunting for the digital generation, Geocaching uses a GPS app to hide and seek small items in outdoor locations and encourages participants to share their experiences with an online community. It added a new dimension to our walk for our little girls, a layer of adventure and excitement about what we might find. The girls learnt a little about navigating, climbed their way up a hill in Snowdonia and along the way, discovered a gorgeous Shetland pony and day-old lambs. That’s got to be good for the heart and soul! (And they were delighted to find the secret stash of tiny items hidden in a box in a dry stone wall)
I am discovering a whole host of sites and apps for camping, hiking, wild swimming and wildlife spotting, which can take our family on new adventures and to beauty spots we might never have otherwise considered. I am encouraged to embrace technology whilst I am in theory escaping it and getting back to nature. It can literally lead me to pastures new.
Digital pioneer, Sue Thomas goes much further, looking at the relationships between nature and cyberspace and envisions a future where the natural environment is increasingly merged with the digital. She discusses how to bring nature into your digital world and explores ways to achieve a tech-nature balance to enhance our digital lives indoors, outdoors, and online.
Technology needn’t be the enemy of good, wholesome, activity or be in conflict with our in-built affinity with nature. There are literally thousands of examples of how technology can guide us in our outdoor pursuits, or indeed, bring the outside in.