The Luddite Club

In today’s world, technology and social media have become an integral part of our lives. The Los Angeles Times reports that Gen Z spends an average of 7.2 hours every day scrolling social media, watching videos, or chatting with their friends.

While technology has brought many efficiencies and connected us to vast amounts of information, community, and immersive content, it also raises concerns about mental health, surveillance, and the overbearing influence of algorithms. According to a survey by SimpleTexting, 68.6% of people say that screen time negatively affects their mental health, and one in three admitted that it had a detrimental impact on their personal or work lives.

In response to this, a new movement has emerged that questions the unchecked impact of technology on our lives. Many people, groups, and brands are advocating for a return to tactile, physical, and offline experiences. The Luddite Club in New York, a teenage lifestyle group, is one such example. Inspired by the Luddite movement of the 19th century, the group promotes “self-liberation from social media and technology.” They meet weekly in a park, preferring 90s flip phones over modern smartphones, and engage in activities like drawing in sketching pads, reading physical books, and having conversations with each other.

This longing for physical experiences is not just a passing trend. Wunderman Thompson Intelligence’s report, “Generation Z: Building a Better Normal,” found that 83% of American Gen Zers have a newfound appreciation for in-person interactions due to the pandemic. While 92% enjoy seeing their friends online, they still prefer meeting them in person. This sentiment is driving a revival of analogue practices and simpler technology from the past.

Physical paper maps, for instance, have seen a surge in sales. Ordnance Survey reported a 144% year-on-year increase in sales in 2020, which climbed a further 28% in 2021, while The AAA produced 123% more maps in 2022 than in 2021. This trend is being linked to digital fatigue, as people seek ways to disengage from their screens. Physical maps provide a sense of adventure and spontaneity, delivering a very different experience to the efficiency and speed prioritized by digital alternatives.

Another trend that reflects this desire for simplicity and control is the resurgence of the digital camera. On TikTok, the hashtag #digitalcamera has amassed more than 220 million views. Digital cameras lack the filters and editing capabilities of smartphones, and the barrier between images and social media makes them more appealing to some Gen Zers who want to reclaim control of their lives.