When it comes to unplugging, there aren’t many people better to sit down with than Jess Davis of Folk Rebellion. She’s an accomplished digital strategist, named to Brand Innovators’ Class of 2013 ’40 Under 40′ by list and a large part of growing GoGo squeeZ from a $7 Million to $100 Million brand in 2 years.

Yet recently Jess made news by starting Folk Rebellion, a startup devoted to creating a world with more balance and time away from screens.

We had the pleasure of speaking with Jess recently, and here’s what she had to say: 

In your own words, what’s Folk Rebellion all about?

It started out as a desire to have what I considered to be an important conversation about the balance and return of living in “real-life” in our new “screened-in” world. My goal was to talk to as many people as possible about the effects of technology, see how they were feeling about their current mobile life, and inspire them to push back a little on all the digital interruptions.

What resulted from these conversations is where we are now: a lifestyle brand trying to inspire a counterculture through apparel and wares for the “tech-tethered”.

And Folk Rebellion came out of your personal experiences as a digital strategist, yes?

As my tech/screen/app/device usage increased, my creativity felt all over the place and less “sparkly”, my memory became a fraction of what it was, I felt as if I was being pulled in thousands of different directions and never fully present anywhere, I noticed I could no longer read a book without taking a “break” to check all my distractions, my productivity went down, but most importantly I realized I was setting a horrible example for my son and slowly killing the connections in my real life relationships.

Why do you think it’s so important for people to be unplugged?

It’s not necessarily about unplugging, but about creating balance and boundaries around the digital communications and screens. 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 had not had before. When they head back to their regular life, they notice how many times they are refreshing their email, how they haven’t put their phones off to the side – including bathroom breaks – in years, how they may be being rude to someone who’s company they are in.

So, it’s not the unplugging that’s so important to me, though its a great way to open peoples eyes, as the balance and boundaries around it all. I don’t want to encourage people to do something that for me was not sustainable. We all know the tech is here to stay. It’s exponential. The sky’s the limit, which is why it’s so important to inspire people to manage their consumption of it.

What’s the response been like from everyday consumers? How about from brands you’ve worked with? 

A collective fist pump. Honestly, we have been blown away by the personal notes from our community. They hand write and send via snail mail, letters and old school style notes – yes, the lost art of high school folded notes: the original text messages – send us emails asking for how to better balance their virtual life and real life, and share our messages. Many want to contribute and tell their stories. It seems as if so many people are feeling this digital exhaustion and are wanting the pendulum to swing back. Hell, even Apple knows we are sick of our phones interrupting everyday life, which is why they released the Apple Watch.

We’ve been quite lucky to work with some wonderful brands already. The people and brands who get us and what we are doing mainly inhabit the conscious living and wellness space.

What long-term effects of being so plugged in do you predict for our society? 

I am not a futurist or doctor, but a part of my job in my former life was to spot trends. That’s how I could see this one coming years ago and I am just happy to be at the forefront of it acting as an activist for mindful tech.

I believe if we continue this rapid trajectory we are on – without a collective time-out to assess – we are going to have a society of burnt-out, automated, unhappy and unhealthy people. Some very smart people are out there studying all the effects but so much change is happening in such a short time that we cannot fully know the repercussions. That’s why it scares me we are so quick to replace textbooks in elementary schools even after a new study just found that screens may decrease empathy in children.

When I think of all of this, I try and imagine what it was like when alcohol, TV, and fast food all were introduced. None came with warnings for moderated consumption. It took years, decades, and in some cases it’s still not properly positioned, though we know the consequences. I kind of view this time with our 1st generation of Digital Natives similar to what the 1950s were for TV. Look how far we’ve come.

Do you see any irony or inconsistency in doing something with your digital skills that highlights the importance of unplugging?  

I love this question and get it all the time. Some people even feel afraid to ask me. Is there irony? Absolutely. 100%. Do I have dreams of running a paper publication and owning a store in real life? Yes, and I can’t wait for those dreams to become reality.

But, my goal is to reach and inspire as many people as possible. To do that, I need to meet people where they are and, as you know, the world is undeniably digital.

I discovered that the best way to encourage people to set boundaries and balances around their technology is to reach them where they are: online. Our Instagram is used as a friendly elbow nudge to put the phone down by sharing facts, data and inspiration that break up the typical newsfeed, Facebook allows us to share articles with important information about unplugging, and Twitter connects us with other like-minded individuals. Our ecommerce store sells vintage-style tees that are designed to spark thoughtful dialogue about the new screened-in world and share our messages, while a curated collection of nostalgic goods rewinds to a simpler time and encourage a low-tech life away from the cloud.

Want more from Jess? You can visit Folk Rebellion’s site, or connect with them on Instagram.