Jess Davis is the founder of Folk Rebellion – a movement (and apparel company) where she promotes slower-living and the more mindful use of technology. As a formerly plugged-in digital strategist and award-winning brand consultant, her fast tech-based career allowed her a unique perspective from the inside – out.
After 10+ years of helping clients find their digital voices, Jess looked up and realized she had in fact, helped create a society that was no longer present or connected at all. After much soul searching, research, and family-imposed vacations offline, she discovered her calling – to use her megaphone to inspire folks (and herself) to return to living in “real-life” … all while balancing their digital one. Her rebel spirit is fueled by meandering, cliffs, live music, New Orleans, bulldogs, her family, autumn, the Adirondacks, being bored and whiskey…not necessarily in that order.
JESS DAVIs | chief rebel | mother | Activist
Tell us about Folk Rebellion. What made you leave your previous career and launch a clothing company?
Oh where to begin?! I guess I should start out by saying that I didn’t launch a clothing company, so much as a mission. My goal when I started this, and still is, is to reach as many people as possible about the negative effects of technology with misuse and share with them that there is another, better, choice when it comes to technology. The clothes were just a tool to share that message with strangers….kind of like walking billboards 🙂
I started Folk Rebellion quite suddenly, but a quick review of my Go Daddy purchases show that I have been playing with this idea for about 8 years. The long and the short of it is that I was the stereotypical plugged-in New Yorker, wearing busy like a badge of honor. I now consider myself a recovering digital strategist. My career had taken off and after winning awards and gaining more clients which I was communicating on behalf of digitally, I started to get really sick in my head. My brain was struggling. Memory, attention, fog, disassociation, and creativity were all lacking. I knew something was wrong but I didn’t know what and neither did my doctors. It wasn’t until a family imposed digital detox on a vacation in Hawaii that I began to feel better. On day 8 a lightbulb went off. I was well again and the only difference was my presence, lack of technology, and slower pace. When I returned to work I quit that Monday.
When did you know you were meant to share the Folk Rebellion message?
I believe that the road is a squiggly mess all over the map. Only in looking back can we see that there was a way all along. I had no idea that this big and busy career was teaching me the skillset needed to story tell and create communities at the same time it was burning me out. When I had my son in 2011, 4 years after the iPhone was created, I was already able to see the effects of addicted adults….I couldn’t imagine what it would be like for my son. I guess I had to have the burnout, the info, the view from the proverbial “inside” of the tech industry, and a mama bears desire to protect her son at any cost. It was like a magical concoction. I had no choice. I often say that I am just a conduit. I am delivering a message outside of myself. Elizabeth Gilbert talks about Ideas finding homes….I guess I am the body for this idea. It’s bigger than me. It’s why I don’t stop.
Factually, I was sitting on a mountain when the words Folk Rebellion came to me. I believe nature allows space for breath and ideas. It only made sense for me to create a lifestyle around it, since this is what I already knew how to do, and get people into the idea….without scaring them. No one wants to be told they are scrambling their brains….are worse yet, their kids’ brains.
Your brand is about logging off, but much of your success is through social media sharing. How do you balance the two?
Would I love to live in a cabin and share learnings via newspapers and smoke signals? YEAH. My hippie heart would be happy but it’s just not possible. I need to meet people where they are and we all know the world is undeniably digital. We aren’t anti-tech. We are not Luddites, but rather believe that tech needs balance, self-regulation, and boundaries. Mindful tech is a term we often use to describe this, or digital minimalism. I’m granting people permission to challenge the idea that just because we are accessible 24/7 doesn’t mean that we should be. We don’t know the full effects from all of this but the early signs aren’t good; FOMO, envy, narcissism, stress, anxiety, physical ailments, lack of empathy, echo chambers, and being ungrounded are all things that happen pretty quickly with use without regulation.
We are using digital mediums to remind people to look up and get back to real life. Could I share more often? Sure. It would probably be good for business but it’s counterintuitive to what I believe in. So I sell one less shirt, but I also create less garbage vying for people’s eyeballs. Basically, if it’s not educational, inspirational, or needed…we don’t share it. To FR, less is more.
But…..a newspaper club is coming! My childhood dreams coming true 🙂 Oh…and an analog book. One you can dog ear, highlight, and spill match lattes all over.
Oh, and I never email after 6pm or on weekends. Ever. Boundaries baby!
So much of our self-esteem rides on this virtual thrill of receiving positive feedback from social media. The thrill can be addictive, but it can also take a toll on how we feel about ourselves when the likes or comments don’t come in. What advice to have for people to better connect with themselves and find other modes of self-esteem?
It’s imperative that people first understand that this is not real. Each person’s personal brand is a filter of their life. It’s the best pieces shared in drips and drabs with layers of filters and witty commentary. It’s not real. It’s a small piece of the figurative picture. No one is sharing about their divorce, what they look like on day 2 of no showers, their muffin top after a weekend eating and Netflix binging. But it’s so hard when you consume this every day. The FOMO seeps in. The self doubt. The shes-volunteering-and-working-out-and-raising-2-kids-and-looks-like-that-and-I’m-here thoughts take over. Never in our lives have we had such windows into others worlds. But those windows….they’re bullshit.
So what can you do? You can take off the blinders. Understand it’s like a magazine ad. Turn inward. Did you know the more you use Facebook the unhappier you are? The more you use devices the less eye contact you have and therefore less empathy. How shitty is that? We all just want to be seen and feel alive. We need to fall back in love with IRL communities where we get the seratonin boosts from a hug or high five, we need to replace 2D with 3D when and where we can….books, magazines, real cameras, art, music with instruments or vinyl, and go back to the original social networks….bars or gyms. Also, setting a certain period of time per day on apps that make us feel shitty is key. And meditation….I have no idea where I would be without it.
Do you have any advice or a lesson you could share for other women entrepreneurs?
YES! So many, but lately I have really been fixating on the Imposter Syndrome. If you don’t know what it is, it is basically when a woman with ability and success still doubts herself. It’s been found that men typically don’t. An example is how I will NOT call myself an expert in my bio, writings, talks, etc. Instead, I refer to myself as an activist so that no one can say “Hey! She doesn’t have XYZ credentials.” It’s really quite stupid. When I spoke with a male counterpart he said “FUCK! I am an expert.” HAHA NO. SELF. DOUBT.
It took a long while to recognize the imposter syndrome and see it for what it is. My advice for other women is to follow this.
Whenever I feel like an imposter on stage or in my writing, like I am waiting for someone to stand up and yell MALARKEY!, I turn to Marianne Williamson’s quote: “It is not our credentials but our commitment to a higher purpose that creates effectiveness in the world. Our power doesn’t lie in our resume or connections. Our power lies in our clarity on why we’re here on Earth. We’ll be important players if we think that way. And the important players in the coming years will be the people who contribute to the healing of the world.”
But as far as credentials go I am a recovering digital addict, 10+ years career in tech, digital strategist, a parent, a member of the last generation to have a childhood without tech, and voracious reader with a vast network of really smart folks at my side helping Folk Rebellion every step of the way.
Connecting to nature is very important to you. Do you have a favorite spot? How do you make time for it?
The woods, the mountains, the sea. Preferably all together. You can usually find me in the Adirondack Mountains. I grew up near them and this is where I feel most at home, happy, and free. It’s a 4 hour drive from Brooklyn but they call me back quite regularly.
It’s mandatory I make time for it. I reason with this because all my best ideas happen away from my desk and screens, in nature. So basically, if I don’t go, I am hurting my growth and business. It’s all perspective baby!
What are your must-have essentials for adventuring?
Absolute must haves are my:
• North Face pack
• Nalgene water bottle (wider mouth allows for faster and more hydration!)
• Lululemon runners shorts
• Pendelton roll up blanket
• Ray Ban’s (I basically never leave the house without sunglasses on)
• A good book (currently reading Big Magic)
• RX Bars
• Light Phone (it’s a phone with nothing on it except the ability to make a phone call)
• Sony Mirrorless camera
Oh and some toilet paper.
What is one thing you haven’t done yet that you’d really like to do?
Publish my book….it’s coming! And hike K2. Also on schedule for next year.
What do you love most about your body as it is right now?
I got Lyme disease last year and it’s added a few extra pounds to my body. I’ve learned to love them because my face is a little fuller and therefore I look younger…..silver linings!
What is your current Folk Rebellion must-have?
Right now I cannot take off the Raising Hell + Living Well pullover. It’s quite possibly the softest sweatshirt I’ve ever owned. Seriously, my husband made me take it off and wash it last week. We’re giving away a Raising Hell + Living Well pullover (pictured above) over on our Instagram. Enter here.
Thank you, Jess!
Do you have a female entrepreneur you look up to? Who would you like us to interview next? Share in the comments below.