Jess Davis founder of
The founder of Folk Rebellion encourages people to unplug from their devices and connect with the world around them
‘I want to live my life; not record it,’ says Jess Davis, borrowing a line from Jackie Onassis. Davis is the founder of Folk Rebellion, a movement and lifestyle brand that encourages and inspires people to become mindful of the technology they use.
Folk Rebellion spreads its message through an e-commerce boutique and online community. “While the latter may sound counterintuitive,” Davis explains, “Folk Rebellion is all about moderation. As it turns out, the best way to encourage people to set boundaries and balances around their technology is to reach them where they are: online.”
Folk Rebellion also hosts digital-detox retreats where phones, laptops, and other digital devices are—gasp— taken away.
Their virtual shop features vintage-style tees, journals, watches, and calendars. A portion of all profits are donated to the Children and Nature Network, which helps to create a world in which every child can play, learn and grow outdoors. Folk Rebellion also hosts digital-detox retreats where phones, laptops, and other digital devices are—gasp— taken away.
In our interview with her, Davis tells us more about Folk Rebellion. For our Green Issue, she shares with us her advice on leading a more mindful life, and what she does to be eco-friendly.
BWB: When was Folk Rebellion conceived?
A few years ago, I noticed my memory wasn’t what it used to be, my creativity was waning and sporadic, and worse yet I couldn’t seem to focus on anything for very long. None of this made sense to me until I went to Hawaii with my family. When we went, my husband pleaded that I put the screens away. All of them. Fear was my first thought, followed by hesitant agreement and then surprising relief. Eight days later, I woke up naturally, refreshed, clear and wanting to write.
I looked at Glenn and said the words that changed my life forever “I feel like my old self.” The funny thing was, I had not realized that there was an old self and a new self.
Upon arriving back in NYC, I did what I have been doing for my entire career as a digital strategist; I studied data, asked questions, found an insight and solved for it. What I found is that so many of my colleagues, friends, and family were feeling this way too. The common denominator in all our lives was being super “plugged-in.” So I decided to use my ability to be a digital-megaphone and make noise around the important findings some super smart people are now just discovering.
Once you bring awareness to the issue in our screened-in world, people become more mindful of their tech consumption.
BWB: What’s your goal with Folk Rebellion?
To inform or inspire as many people as possible to think about how, when and where they use their devices. I have been finding that once you bring awareness to the issue in our screened-in world, people become more mindful of their tech consumption.
BWB: How do you stay connected, but keep awareness?
Unplugging, I have found, is a great entry point to have people realize what it feels like to be without their devices. Some feel instantly free and excited, others panicked and lost, and a small group downright refuse. But that feeling, no matter what side of the coin they are on, gives them awareness they lacked before.
Traveling is an opportunity to force yourself away from screens, which studies have shown increases attention span and retention rate as well as inspires creativity.
BWB: What are some easy ways to become more mindful?
1. Set boundaries.
The number of people who put an out-of-office response has dropped significantly in recent years because you are always connected to your ‘computer’ in one way or another. Put your out-of-office on your outlook with your time-zone difference (if traveling for business) or your return date + 1 day (if traveling for vacation) to give yourself time to catch up.
2. Travel with paper.
Magazines, books, journals. We spend so much time operating life in front of screens; Traveling whether for business or pleasure, is an opportunity to force yourself away from screens, which studies have shown increases attention span and retention rate as well as inspires creativity.
3. Take Jackie O’s advice.
She is famous for saying “I want to live my life; not record it.” Don’t Instagram, Tweet and Facebook everything. We have a different level of experience with face-to-face interaction vs. through a lens.
4. Encourage Phone Calls.
Manage people’s expectations about when they can expect to hear back from you via email and texts. My friends and colleagues know that I “batch” my digital communications at certain times of the day. In between those times I make sure I am available via phone calls if I am urgently needed. My email signature explicitly states this. Funny thing is… guess how many have called? Zero. It almost always can wait a few hours.
Remember when it was rude to call after 9 p.m.? Now texts and emails drop like little interruption bombs all evening.
5. 9-9 Offline.
For many reasons, we shouldn’t be consuming media and screens right before bed and right when we wake up. But as phones have replaced alarm clocks, it’s hard to resist the urge.
Move the phone out of the bedroom and get an old school alarm clock.
Use your 9-9 rule to sleep, snuggle, look out the window, set intentions, feel your sheets. We need to set the parameters for what is acceptable in our life. Remember when it was rude to call after 9 p.m.? Now texts and emails drop like little interruption bombs all evening.
BWB: Where’s the next retreat?
Sayulita, Mexico with our good friends at Rock Your Bliss for their Blisscrafters retreat this October.
Next year we will be in Hawaii, Tahoe, Aspen, and Vermont.
We are announcing more unplugged events soon at Folkrebellion.com.
It’s more than concerning to me that we are racing to wi-fi equip elementary schools when we don’t know the outcomes yet.
BWB: What’s the footprint you’d like to leave behind?
I’d like to be the spark or catalyst for setting these boundaries in our life around tech, screens, and connectedness. I often think back to innovations that were introduced that excited the human race but resulted in initial over-consumption and ignorance of the lasting effects. Some examples include alcohol, cigarettes, TV, birth control, high fructose corn syrup, carbs (my personal favorite); all were new and sparkly and yummy until we realized what they were doing to us. Sometimes it takes decades, and sometimes we never learn.
It’s more than concerning to me that we are racing to wi-fi equip elementary schools when we don’t yet know the outcomes. A recent study showed that teaching kids with iPads drastically lowers their levels of empathy. Many of the studies are just coming out… so shouldn’t we know better?
I feel it is my purpose to speak and stand up for these kids. Helping educate their parents to advocate for change is the first step in that process.
BWB: What do you think will happen if social media continues to go the way it has?
I am afraid if we continue on this current path, living without a collective timeout to see what this is doing to us and our society, we will have a world full of people who are unfocused, automated, addicted, lacking in empathy and connection to their heads, hearts, and loved ones.
BWB: What do you hope to achieve in 10 years?
Laws protecting children against overexposure to technology at a young age, a collective shift in what society deems as normal, more people who are healthy and happy because of the balance in their life, success and love for my company as it helps improve lives, a tree house home on an off-the-grid island, and a world for my son in which I am proud to have him live.
BWB: September is our green issue. How do you stay green?
I drink a lot of green! Juggling my son, business and commuting, it is difficult to always have a full, healthy meal. Drinking my green veggies gives me what I need even when I’m on the run. We also planted and grew a garden this year. We have lettuce, peppers, corn, cucumbers, and tomatoes. It’s as fun for us as it is healthy and sustainable.
We’re also as a family and a business super conscious about upcycling and recycling. Our clothes are ethically made and our unplug box is an eco-friendly berry box made out of recycled pulp.
BWB: For our beauty readers, could you tell us what some of your favorite products are?
La Mer Face Cream has been my ritual for 15 years. Pangea Organics Lip Balm was given to me by Elena Brower and I can’t live without it now.
Laura Mercier Flawless Skin Face Polish will change your life. Kukui Nut Coconut Massage and Body Oil that I actually use as my body lotion. Clé de Peau Beauté Concealer is all you need when running out. Oh and Diorshow Extase Mascara.
I’m conscious of my skin in the sun but love a tan so I use St. Tropez for my body tan and Bare Minerals Warmth all over bronzer.
BWB: What’s Folk Rebellion motto?
We have a couple of one-liners: “Take it easy & offline” is our usual send off. And, “Raise hell for living well in real life” is another mantra.