Slowing down – how (and why) we’re rejecting a culture of speed

26 Sep 2018

If the digital and post-digital tech revolutions of recent decades have had one desire at their core, it’s the desire to make everything faster. Instantaneity and speed have become the markers of modern progress - bringing the future to us ever quicker than before.

However, now that you can download almost instantly, WiFi speeds have tripled, and Amazon are close to droning something to you as soon as you ask for it, speed and instantaneity are losing some of their status.

In the wake of ‘craft’ culture, the millennial movement obsessed with artisanal, unique, design-led objects and brands, comes a more ideology-based trend concerned with slowness. It’s the antithesis of the speed focus of the last few decades; here slowing down and having time to play with has become the signifier of luxury and taste.

A few examples of the slow movement that demonstrate how certain industries are being challenged by this shift in ideals, and of the new brands and alternatives that seek to cater to a slower lifestyle:


Slow experiences
Immersive experiences have become a leisure go-to, and newer events provide innovative ways for you to take your time, slow down and escape the real world – Nap York NYC’s ‘nap pods’ providing a pause in your city day, or HP’s Antarctic dome at last year’s Coachella offering a cool respite from the heat, comfy reclining chairs and an immersive, dreamlike projection.

Slow food movement
Once niche, now becoming more mainstream, this restaurant and personal manifesto-led movement takes a counter-industry stance and seeks to revolutionise the way we produce our food – attempting to connect us to the land and appreciate the bounty it gives us.

Slow exercise
Mindfulness practices are increasingly applied to non-spiritual exercise practices, encouraging people to adopt a calmer approach to body shaping, to slow down and be gentler with their bodies, while still essentially performing the same exercises associated with high intensity training like Crossfit.

Carving out time for Romance
Flexible working hours have led to ‘always on’ lifestyles, and for some this is to the detriment of their romantic lives. Some people are seeking to carve out precious time and promote the importance of switching off – for example, Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan stipulating 100 hours of alone time per week in their marriage contract, or the revolutionary principles behind Appetence, the world’s first ‘slow dating’ app.

Minimalism and tidying up
What started out as an aesthetic and mindfulness movement has also become associated with slowness – minimalism reduces the time you have to spend on tidying and choosing, freeing you up to appreciate other things, and so giving you back your much-needed time.

Return to the analogue
As the digital world is what created the culture of speed in the first place, certain disruptive brands seek to re-shape the analogue into something that functions in the new world – but that gives us the slow, methodical, purposeful user experience of the analogue. For example: the light phone is a phone that’s ‘designed to be used as little as possible’ and has actual clickable buttons to restore the feeling of responsiveness and satisfaction in performing routine manual tasks that’s lost in our age of gestures and swiping.

Slow exploration in video games
A new wave of video games shy away from the time constraints and high tempo of first person shooters and mobile brain twisters, and instead give players an open ended, dreamlike, exploratory experience – offering extensive worlds to drift through at the player’s leisure, allowing them to take in the sights and enjoy a new kind of enlightening, slow travel. For example: Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Journey, and No Man’s Sky.

By choosing slow experiences, consumers underline the importance of time itself. Time in this narrative is framed as the new premium – the element that supports reflection, human connection and good health. As each generation begins to focus more on the ‘life’ side of work/life balance, it’s clear that slowness will likely become more and more important – and time a luxury worth paying for, provided in ever more innovative ways.