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A quiet ring

Kate Unsworth
Founder of smart designer jewellery company Kovert on why we should focus on using our time wisely - and our technology mindfully
One night a few years ago I was meeting a friend for dinner after work. He was two hours late. Ordinarily this wouldn’t have been a problem – great opportunity to catch up on more emails, I’d have thought – but on this occasion, all my devices were out of juice. My spare battery packs (yes, plural) had already been used that day, and I’d left my wall plug charger elsewhere.

It was a time in my life when I was the epitome of plugged in. I was working as a management consultant, carrying out 16+ hour days with my virtual team in six time zones, living a city-hopping lifestyle. I’d reply to emails from clients within minutes, meaning they’d become accustomed to my responsiveness. My phone was always on, and I regularly missed sleep to ensure I achieved ‘inbox zero’. At 25 years old I was approaching burnout.

So as you can imagine, I was furious. How dare he be late and leave me in this wonderful cafe with live jazz music without any devices?

Digital detox

Then suddenly it dawned on me. What had I become? I had a flashback to four years earlier, when I’d spent a summer in India studying yoga and meditation intensively. For years I’d practiced techniques to help me remain connected in the yogic sense. But in my early adult life, I’d exchanged this spiritual connectedness for a much less fulfilling version: digital connectedness.

When I got home that night, I didn’t charge my phone. In fact, I didn’t charge it for two whole weeks. I wanted nothing to do with technology. Which was tough, because I was a technology consultant.

During this two week digital detox, I continued to work, but my life changed in ways that might seem drastic to many. I only interacted with a computer in the office and I had no interactions by phone. I worked from 9am-5pm instead of 7am-12am. I reinstated my yoga and meditation practice. I restored a practice of gratitude, which meant being aware of what I did have in my life as opposed to what I didn’t, and what I had achieved as opposed to what I hadn’t.

I slept, a lot. I had sex, played piano, made jewellery, observed life and felt real emotions. I actually lived life. What’s more, I didn’t let anything slip at work.

I’d spent the years prior to this experience completely cut off from my own intimate awareness. I’d lost sight of the quiet space that lets your mind wander off and discover new things.

Alone together

Since that breaking point in the cafe, I’ve been on an in-depth exploration of digital anthropology and human connection. I began researching the impact our innovations were having on the development of characteristics such as empathy. I quickly noticed that I wasn’t alone: others were feeling just as disconnected, despite being more digitally connected than ever before.

Some research suggests we’re losing the ability to process emotions due to our reduced level of eye contact, and worsening our capacity to process ‘non-bite-sized’ information due to our reduced attention spans. Worst of all, we’re forgetting how to just be.

Mindful tech

Three days into my digital detox, it was like I’d been awoken from a trance. My friends and family recognised me, I regained my creativity and the general joy of living. But what, I thought, happens to those who don’t have that wake up call? Or the generations below me who never knew life without smartphones and laptops?

And so Kovert was born. I decided I wanted to build smarter, more mindful technology. We create products like ALTRUIS – designer jewellery that allows you to take a step away from your smartphone, alerting you (with subtle vibrations) only for the most important notifications so you can focus on the stuff that really matters.

Being Kovert is about living in the moment. It’s about being conscious as to how we allocate our time, expend our energy and interact with one another. It’s about creating enough space to hear our own voice, to breathe and be inspired. It’s about using our time wisely, and our technology mindfully.

I was furious. How dare he be late and leave me in this wonderful cafe with live jazz music without any devices?