Every December, we make a mental list of new year’s resolutions; eat healthier, exercise more, have more patience for the kids, dedicate more time to friends, etc. Recently, when asked to speak about self-fulfillment in the digital age at a conference, it occurred to me that probably like many others, it has been a while since I thought about picking up a new hobby, or in general, investing in my own personal growth. Thoughts I had often in my youth and as my career progressed, faded away…
It got me thinking about how the concept of free time & leisure has changed with the advancement of the digital technologies. Connected 24/7, there never really is an excuse to stop working. While in our parents’ generation it used to be that once you exited the office at the end of the day, or at the end of the week, you were free to engage in other activities, today, less and less we take liberty to do so.
So, what is the meaning of free time in the 21st century? It’s obviously not a siesta between 2-4pm. Is it only on a plane ride where it is legitimate to get off the grid? (Even there, Wifi has taken over the last quiet time…) Is it Sunday nights when the ROW is still on their weekend? Is it snippets of times that can’t technically be used for work? I prefer to take a different approach and not to look at the quantity but rather focus on the quality. Not too long ago, the leisure options available to us, needed to be physical and approachable and were usually expensive. An English tutor would be the person helping you polish your language, a trip to India was needed to master meditation. Today, we don’t confine our desires to what is around us and we are not obliged to commit to a time slot in our busy calendars. We can create windows in time for self-enrichment activities.
Over 300 million people use the language learning app Duolingo to learn 36 languages anywhere and anytime. On-line degrees and courses from top universities are offered by the Coursera learning platform. Over 50 million users have downloaded Calm for self-guided mediation. Digital technologies brought an abundance of opportunities to achieve our dreams, to our doorstep or better yet, to our fingertips.
When I first met JoyTunes, the music learning platform, it all came together for me. Suddenly, “Anyone could play”. Music lessons had become available anytime and anywhere through an intuitive and affordable app. A far cry from the shared piano in the kibbutz music room I had to wait my turn for so many evenings… JoyTunes targets the consumer market with a disruptive way of teaching music, enabling people to fulfil their musical dreams. By the same measure, our portfolio company Talkspace enables “therapy for all” with its online mental therapy platform. No need to make a trip for a prescheduled appointment if you feel you need speak to someone. Text-based therapy is now available anytime and anywhere in a confidential way, largely contributing to the quality of your life. Minute Media’s digital publishing platform enables sports fans to express themselves as real reporters by writing passionately about a subject that is close to their hearts. The fact that these companies from Qumra’s growth portfolio, have millions of users and are rapidly growing, goes to show that they share a powerful common denominator: addressing a genuine need for self-expression and self-fulfillment in the digital age.
So yes, the advent of technology has taken up more of our time, but it also enables us to purse and access meaningful and satisfying desires, improving the quality of our free time. And on this philosophical note, I bid you a fantastic new year, may it be filled with a healthy mix of exciting hobbies, cherished family moments and challenging and satisfying work opportunities.