Trend Watch

Digital predictions, trends for Jewish nonprofits to watch in 2023

In Short

Artificial intelligence, reduced attention spans, vulnerability and mental health awareness are likely to be on your tech radar for 2023.

As we look towards a faster-paced, more curated and more connected year, we see tremendous opportunities for Jewish organizations to leverage technology for their betterment. So here are some predictions for 2023, with links to some of the interesting tools bound to shape the year ahead:

The impact of AI will be tangible

While artificial intelligence (AI) has been around for years, its use is on the rise in software and workflows. One recent example is the viral rise of ChatGPT, an Elon Musk-funded OpenAI project, which reached 1 million users in five days (compare that with Facebook, which reached the same milestone after 10 months).

Another viral example is Deep NostalgiaTM — MyHeritage and D-ID partnered to offer the world the ability to take old family photos and bring the images to life through realistic AI-driven animation. OpenAI’s text-to-image generator, DALL E, enabled users to generate images using text descriptions and optimize the results, and enabled the machine to learn more from every user’s choices. Descript has revolutionized video editing through an AI-generated transcription-based editing user interface, and Anyword democratizes copywriting by generating entire articles from mere headlines, predicting the performance of the copy along the way.

Concerns around AI span from an inevitable robot takeover (believed by Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking) to identity theft through the usage of deep fakes. Some will argue that AI is removing humanity from artistic expression, blurring the lines of authorship and originality. Others will say that it enables democratized access to creativity in all forms. But there is no question that these tools are here to stay.

A benefit unique to the nonprofit world is the rise of tools like Hatch.ai, which enables development departments to engage with donors and alumni efficiently and more intelligently.

The rise of MyHeritage’s AI Time MachineTM is a case study we may be talking about for years. As people made shareable, creative, playful avatars and shared them on social media, it drove more curiosity about the tool, feeding one of MyHeritage’s key performance indicators of registered users. This illustrates the value of incorporating cutting-edge technology; it is not difficult to translate this idea into something that would fit the playbooks of Jewish nonprofits.

Further focus on mental wellness and digital regulation

Time spent online, particularly on social media, hit a ceiling for approximately four years. Experts are increasingly blowing whistles; the awareness that arose from 2020’s The Social Dilemma and the writings of thought leaders like Cal Newport have generated conversations around digital regulation at almost every dorm room and dinner table.

One may see people walking in the streets using the newest version of minimalist Light Phone, which only calls and texts; however, the vast majority of people will still have smartphones in 2023. If anything, Facebook’s big bets on the metaverse, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) may result in wearables that the public may even begin to tolerate.

Today we live in a society with collective cognitive dissonance, knowing the risks of our technology use while being too distracted to effectively address the problems. We hope that, this year, increased discussion around mental health will motivate and inspire both nonprofit- and profit-driven pursuits to offer solutions.

User experience expectations are high

In a post-COVID world, digital companies are now offering optimizations that compete by further leveling up the user experience, driving our patience as digital consumers lower than ever.

Where Amazon had consumers expecting e-commerce delivery within a two-day window, Prime Now reduced that expectation to 30 minutes, even before COVID began. On social media, auto-captioning is built in. Canva has provided templatized graphic design tools to all. Spotify’s anchor.fm has enabled every person on the planet to have a podcast for free. Gmail’s Smart Compose predicts what we’re going to type by analyzing our writing. The list is virtually infinite for solutions for both work and play.

This is being driven by the massive increase in focus on user experience design and design thinking in the past few years (Google Trends), as well as the fact that the average attention span of an internet user is at a record low of three to five seconds.

While we’ve all known that attention spans were dwindling, now we are beginning to laugh at and embrace the “TikTokification” of our social interactions.

Companies and organizations see that it is increasingly more difficult to attract and keep the attention of the most distracted generation. (According to some sources, millennials don’t even see ads anymore.) Therefore, they’re investing endlessly into “attention engineering” — serving users in ways that are faster, more accurate, more impactful and more easily engaged with. 

For nonprofits, this means that voices that cannot articulate themselves powerfully, interestingly and concisely will become irrelevant. While users oscillate between a preference for long- vs. short-form consumption, they won’t be willing to invest their time and attention in a long podcast or movie until after they’ve crossed a threshold of proof in the form of highly engaging teasers.

On a positive note, this exposure of the human tendency to embrace surface-level messaging, images and ideas is driving some to dig deeper, to celebrate longer-form, meaningful experiences as an escape from a shallow society. Becoming a deep expert is becoming more rare, valued and rewarding.

The online exploitation of vulnerability

In 2013, Brené Brown started the mainstream conversation and celebration of vulnerability. In 2020-21, vulnerability as a topic exploded, driven by COVID-exacerbated mental health crises. In 2022, vulnerability and authenticity are assumed cultural norms when engaging online, even more so on topics one may hesitate to discuss in person. Today, you are no longer relevant if you don’t “authentically” connect with your followers on the most intimate details of your life. 

While some wellness experts are suggesting we should be more vulnerable online to improve mental health, studies show that reducing social media usage correlates with a decrease in reported levels of loneliness and symptoms of depression. The celebration of increased digital vulnerability is not only a bad solution but is likely driving the increased rates of psychological distress. 

2022 brought massive layoffs and elevated interest rates, driving significant financial distress in families globally. While connection, guidance and open communication are important during difficult times, users who post stories on social platforms are rewarded with surface-level validation from their peers; however, when they log offline, the problems are still there and they feel even more alone.

An increased willingness to communicate about internal distress enables us to reach out for help and to support our friends and family when they most need it. The celebration of vulnerability and mainstreaming conversations around mental health will encourage our communities to become aware of and more educated about the abundant mental health crises, and to begin to address them.

Looking forward to 2023

We hope to see a year of new ideas and the implementation of technology in ways that help each individual connect to each other and to their deep Jewish heritage. We hope Jewish nonprofits and the professionals who run them will find our predictions relevant and helpful.

Jamie Geller is the chief media & marketing officer at AISH. Noach Levin is the director of advancement at MEOR.