THE year is 2032 and you are at the cutting edge of a revolution. You have just received a blueprint for your personal digital diet. It prescribes a menu of tweaks to your online behaviour that will keep “Zoom fatigue” at bay, curb mindless scrolling and fill your social media interactions with meaning. There is even a regular dose of gaming to boost working memory and attention. Welcome to a new life of digital contentment.
Such a future may seem far-fetched, but hand-tailored digital prescriptions could be a reality within a decade, according to those working to understand how the internet affects our health and happiness. For many years, perceived links between screen time and well-being have fuelled widespread fears that digital technology is harmful to us. Now, there is a growing realisation that quality matters more than quantity, and that our focus on screen time is misguided.
Drawing parallels between what we consume online and the foods we eat turns out to be a more fruitful approach. Just as salads are better for us than cream buns, so some aspects of our digital diet are more nourishing than others. However, what constitutes healthy eating differs from person to person depending on our physiology and, likewise, there is no such thing as a universal healthy digital diet. In future, a personalised digital prescription could take all of this into account. For now, though, researchers scrutinising what we consume online are starting to distinguish the healthy from the not so healthy. In doing so, they are identifying online habits you can adopt to improve your digital diet and well-being.