Digital Fatigue

I was sitting with three of the most brilliant business minds in NYC a couple weekends ago. We were at a little hole-in-the-wall bar in Cold Springs, NY called, Doug’s Pretty Good Bar — and the name says it all.

It was dimly lit. Cheeky-and-slightly-brash wooden signs adorned the walls. Tables separated by clear shower curtains rigged up to the ceiling with twist ties, and a delightful owner — Doug — who was wearing bright pink reading glasses and hiking boots.

And they boast the best burgers in town. And, according to my comrades, that was a correct accolade.

But what was most striking about that afternoon was not the all-beef patties, or the ice cold beers we were sipping.

But rather, the conversation.

And the topic? Digital fatigue.

You see, we had all just come off of a five mile hike through the Cold Springs mountains, during which, none of us were on our phones. We were completely present, surrounded by nature, focusing on navigating the rocky terrain, and not once were we tempted by an Instagram notification or a text message *ping.*

Then, as soon as we sat down for lunch, what was the first thing we all did? Whip out our phones to check what we missed.

And we all kind of chuckled as we all looked up, only to realize that the lull in conversation was because we had all become instantaneously engrossed in our screens.

It took us less than 2.5 minutes.

But our “social eqttiquite blunder” led to a really fascinating discussion about digital fatigue.

It was a term that I had never heard before, but after hearing it and putting two and two together, I instantly understood.

In my line of work as a blogger and freelance writer, I am used to constantly being connected to my computer, and living and communicating virtually with the people I am working with.

But these NYC business hotshots, when COVID hit, had dream offices on Madison Avenue, down on Wall Street at the new World Trade Center, and in bustling midtown. So to go from that, to working from home – communicating with their teams and clients virtually, through Zoom, through Skype, etc…it was a huge adjustment.

Overnight, their corporate office culture was flipped on its head, and they’ve spent the last seven months adjusting.

And the consensus was unanimous: people are really battling intense digital fatigue.

The impersonal nature of communication. The frustration with slow or clunky bandwidths. The technical glitches that lead to inefficiency. And frankly, just the lack of having the ability to bump into a friendly coworker in at the “water cooler,” or hit the bar after work for a drink at happy hour. These things wear on a person, and make — especially working from home — an isolating and frustrating experience, without a social outfit.

And sadly, there’s really no end in sight. At least not until a vaccine. Companies in NYC have pretty much stated that working-from-home will be the norm until at least 2021. Some of my friends — at very well known companies, I might add — were told they were going to be working from home until SUMMER 2021!

I don’t know about you, but hearing that just takes the wind out of my sails. Of course, I’m glad that everyone is taking the proper precautions and staying safe, but gosh – that just sounds emotionally and socially exhausting.

We are social beings. We were created for community. And completely severing those human to human — in person — interactions has been just detrimental to the spirit and to the soul.

The virtual interactions, though they’ve been a life saver in the pandemic, simply don’t cut it.

When you’re in person, you can feel a person’s energy. The chemistry and connection is palpable, truly. And that simply doesn’t translate through a Zoom meeting, or a phone call.

My friends in their corporate culture are feeling that. And I have definitely felt that, even with communicating with my family. Just being with them in person here this last week – there is a tangible connection that cannot be replicated digitally. It’s the extra linger when you touch their hand. It’s the special twinkle in their eye when you laugh at one of their corny dad jokes. It’s the comforting smell of home. It’s the true sound and timber of their speaking voice, and that special gentle tone they use just with you. It’s the loving shoulder squeeze when they pass by. These things are invaluable. And I have missed them so much.

Digital fatigue is shadowing relationships. It’s plaguing the work place. Heck – it’s doing a number on dating!

My single friends all lament to me about how exhausting and just – unproductive – it is trying to meet someone romantically. For starters you have to get to know each other virtually, and then when you finally do get the courage to meet in person, you have to socially distance and you can’t even see their face behind their mask!!

But I digress.

As winter approaches, we’re going to have to get creative on ways to safely interact, and fight digital fatigue.

Maybe we should all take a page from my sister-in-law’s book, and buy some industrial heat lamps for outdoor gatherings in the winter! (Talk about a genius move!!)

But I’d love to know what you’ve done to combat digital fatigue? Are you trying to safely gather in person? Are you limiting or setting boundaries with your scrolling habits? Or your kids’?

“This is what the Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.” Ez 37:5


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110 responses to “Digital Fatigue”

  1. Awesome! I hope your nature hike was refreshing. You know what I saw at Chick Fil-A? They have these tubs where you’re supposed to throw in your phones for the duration of the meal. No checking Facebook or Twitter… Just be able to make eye contact.

    This was before Coronavirus. It was a great idea to restore real communication. 😉

    • Thank you so much! Oh wow I love that idea about a phone bucket! I agree. Hugs and love xox

    • Hey John! Oh gosh I feel ya there!! You too – stay safe! Thanks for stopping by!! Hugs and love xox

  2. I can easily try to forget social media and all screens, just about 48 seconds 😃😃 lol
    Well with the recent state of my country Nigeria now, one can’t possibly think of giving up screens and social media.
    But nothing compares to nature

    Stay safe🙂

    • Haha oh my gosh I wish I had your talent, Hettie!! Praying for your community! Thanks for stopping by! Hugs and love xox

  3. Loved your post Caralyn! For me, as far as digital fatigue, really hasn’t been a problem. I find that I’ve gotten a lot closer to my kids since they’re home all the time and the quiet time has helped me to be more focused on what I need to do. But I do see it in my kids though. With the inability to do their extracurricular school activities, being around their friends and going out has really been difficult for them. The school part is fine, but the non-socializing has had an effect on them. Their teenage years of being with friends has taken a back seat. Zoom & video conferencing is just not the same and to be honest I really had no advice to give them. All that I can assure them is that this will all pass and they will one day be able to do their normal stuff again but you just have to wait it out.

    • Aw thank you so much Mark! You’re right – in kids especially it’s so hard to encourage off-screen time. It’s becoming the way they socialize! That’s so true. Gotta wait it out! Have a wonderful evening! Hugs and love xox

  4. I’ve had digital fatigue off and on for years. Every time I spend too much time typing, the ol’ digits get fatigued (cue the dad-joke eye roll). Ba-dum-bum.

    We here have decided to just live, so we go out a couple times a week to a fave café or restaurant. It’s hard enough for both of us working at home. At least Hillary is interning at a hospital for her phlebotomy certification, so she sees a lot people and interacts every day. Only 7 more “sticks” needed for her quota and then off to certification testing!

    Still, the handful of people we used to meet for the occasional dinner or lunch have all retreated. Pr. Chuck’s wife won’t let him go out, because she’s afraid he’ll get it – he’s a bit older than I am, after all. Another friend is a lawyer in private practice and can’t afford to get sick and miss a case and the income.

    So I get it, but it’s very fatiguing to just not be able to meet up with friends like we used to. Depressing, really. I want to tell everyone to just chill out. Statistically it’s not nearly as bad as everyone is saying it is. I’ve kept track of the mortality rates, and it’s dropped over 2 points since Q1. But we all have our reasons and fears, so…

    But we remain well here. Olivia is OK up in Columbus. All in all, things could be much worse!

    • Hey Jeff! Hahah love the dad joke! Oh I love that mindset. You’re right – we cannot live in fear. That’s so terrific that Hillary is getting so close!! I’ll definitely keep her in my prayers for her upcoming test!! Yeah, I think as winter approaches, people will start hunkering down. Yes’ praying for you all!! Stay safe, my dear friend. Big hugs to you and your girls. Xox

  5. My digital fatigue happened at social media’s infancy. I quit Facebook long before it took over the world. I saw the digital pandemic happening before it happened. It’s so exhausting watching people attempt to show their ‘best self’ to the world, meanwhile that best self doesn’t actually exist. Or watching people endlessly creating, reposting and laughing hysterically at memes that took like half of one percent of a brain cell to create. This social media madness took me to some very dark places throughout the years. I’ve been detoxing from social media for almost a year now. I plan to become more involved on sites like WordPress and Reddit but I’m taking it slowly. I want to find my true voice before I re-enter the pecking grounds.

    • Thanks for sharing that Maria! Yes I feel you there. Good for you for such a committed digital detox! I’m so inspired! And I so agree – social media is a highlight reel and it’s so easy to forget when scroll through. Hugs and love xox

      • Thank you. And I want to let you know that I have read your posts from time to time and I think you are a genuinely good person. The only reason I read your posts is because you liked mine a while back and I didn’t understand why you were even liking my posts. I was going through many troubles back then. I’ve been on WordPress for years and this is the first day I have ever actually made a comment. So weird. However, I think WordPress will provide for me more of the human interaction I desired all along, even though there is no interaction. I feel people on WordPress put more thought into their words and that’s good enough for me. Thank you beautiful being 🙂

      • Oh my gosh – you’re so kind to say that. Thank you again Maria. I agree – I’ve been so grateful for the little community here on WordPress. It is a blessing for me. And I’m so glad our paths crossed way back when 🙂 💛 sending love and hugs xox

    • That’s awesome Rollie. Books are the best 🙂 a healthy escape indeed. Thanks for stopping by! Hugs and love xox

    • Thanks Amanda. Yes! New term that really makes a lot of sense – very timely! Hugs and love xox

    • Thank you so much! Absolutely – there is no substitution for relationships and personal interaction! Hugs and love xox

  6. Hi Caralyn! So glad you’re having a great time visiting with family! That’s a great pic of you and your folks! I’m thankful they are doing well! Have a great weekend! 😊

    • Thank you Kenneth! Oh my gosh I’m having the best time! You too! Enjoy your weekend! Hugs and love xox

  7. I am so happy to be living here in NZ – and writing this from the office desk. I am spending one day a fortnight WFH and I love that quiet to concentrate on the tough stuff, but some time with my colleagues is also welcome.
    And I’m going to a stitch group tomorrow!
    Take care, whip out a spare bowl for that phone bucket!

    • Hi Paula! Ooh a stitch group tomorrow – that sounds fun. I’m glad you have a good WFH balance! Thanks for stopping by! Hugs and love xox

  8. I have grown weary of my kids and myself being on the computer daily. We don’t watch TV and the kids don’t have phones, but even staring at this screen for several hours is just too much for us. So, we have stretched it out to every other day even skipping two days sometimes. We color, do their home work, go outside and play. It feels wonderful to not be addicted to the technology. I should be writing or doing something else, but I just need a break! So do the kids.

    • Hi Ana, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on this! You’re right – I love that way you’re handling screens with your kids! It is really a delicate balance! Hugs and love xox

  9. I was trying to think of the words for what I felt. It’s hard because we do rely too much on technology as is. Would I time machine back to the 80’s I experienced as a kid just for those cook life experiences? Sure. I guess it’s ultimately about us creating a way to still be independent. If that means shutting off the phone, so be it. I’m sharing this because I feel like you’re onto something here.

  10. I agree with you! We’ve come from being digitally fatigued to living as a socially fatigued out community. I do not like this feeling of having ‘less’ interactions with those that I care for, support, and love. I mean… yes, for the sake of saving our loved ones lives, we will take whatever means it takes to show that we’ll always be there for them. But I do miss their touches and many hugs of love. Nowadays, we have to guess who is behind the mask we have taken a picture with. Is it truly Susan or Dr. Ash from my therapy? Lol. 🙂

    Love you, Sis’! 🙂 Kiya

    • Thank you so much Kiya! You’re right about that – I’m right there with you. I miss those personal interactions too. There’s a huge hole in our hearts for that. And Haha you’re right! It’s a bit of a guessing game! Haha Hugs and love xox

  11. I have had to learn how to balance my energy during the day with the extra digital work I have to do. I practice a lot more mindfulness during the day so I can appreciate the face to face (but masked) time when I can get it!

    • Oh yes – learning that balance is critical! And mindfulness is definitely a huge help to get through the day! Thanks Shannon for stopping by!! Hugs and love xox

  12. You get to go back in summer 2021? Lucky. My governor has just said that even when a vaccine is made available, he won’t allow it in this state until it is independently reviewed by his own handpicked experts (translation from Political Gobbledygook to Reality: he’s making this another move in his petty little feud with Trump, saying that we’re too good to trust anything that the Trump administration pushes), and that it won’t be available to the general public here until the end of 2021.

    • On wow!! That is wild. It really is so sad that this country is letting politics get in the way of things. People’s lives and livelihoods and futures are hanging in the balance. Makes me so sad. Thanks Greg for stopping by! Hugs and love xox

      • Pretty much… and he’s going to pay no political price for this, because his party is really good at blaming all of their shortcomings on the other party, and his supporters here have embraced all the restrictions as a way of virtue signaling. (This is a big part of what I mentioned last time how I’ve been thinking about packing up and starting over somewhere far away, but that’s a very complicated decision.)

      • But it’s a complicated decision for me, mostly because of how that would affect my job, and how now isn’t exactly a good time to go looking for a new job when I really am in a good place work-wise, at least I was before COVID. And this is exactly the kind of thing I was talking about last time, when Jesus saw the people and had compassion because they were like sheep without a shepherd. I think what I really should do is prayerfully consider what would be the clear signs that I need to go somewhere else, and watch for exactly that…

  13. I get out of the house everyday for even if its for a short time, and I have walked every park within 1 hour of home. I need the fresh air and sunshine. If I have to go to the bank or grocery store it’s a big event, you know the kind where I put rollers in my hair and eye make up-lipstick no longer necessary….have a good day

    • Hi Alice! Oh that is so great that you’re making time to get outside. That is so important – the fresh air and sunshine. Thanks for stopping by my friend! Hugs and love xox

  14. The email I read before your post was about our church group and zoom fatigue! We have begun a social distanced outdoor option and it’s WONDERFUL!
    There’s no comparing a digital conversation with an in person one.
    Personally I think we’re going to have to make some bold choices and let people assess their own risk rather than micro-mandating. Society has a responsibility to protect the vulnerable of course but in my opinion we’ve gone berserk overboard. I am in California and I feel for you in NY because outdoor dining is just not going to be an option forever.
    I heard that the pro baseball teams are traveling to whatever state will let them have actual fans to play. That about says it all.
    I’m so glad you got to go home! What a treat to see your parents smiling faces.

    • How timely! That is so great that your church has found a way to worship outside!! That is wonderful!!! You’re right – bold choices got sure. Oh my gosh the biggest treat! Hugs and love xox

  15. Today I joined a (Zoom) 12 Steps meeting for the first time in months. So good to reconnect! And I’m meeting in person with one attendee next week. It’ll be really hard not to hug him!!

    • Oh wow that’s so awesome, Rock! I am so happy for you!!!! I feel ya there!! A fist bump just doesn’t cut it! Haha Hugs and love xox

  16. You’re so perfect Caralyn, with your perspectives. I love this, it was like story-telling. I feel you digital fatigue. I want a life, but I’m a writer, 31, getting older, and it’s been a tough year, and everyone’s so hard up everywhere in the world, and there’s no travel really, it’s not easy to mingle, and maybe i’m just a crab and have forgotten how to hang out with people. Feeling happy being by myself. But you know, you’re right, it helps to have work and stuff. I’m just writing creatively now, want to win a prize, here in south asia, indian, by 2023-2024, on the road to some publishing but scared. and love is scary, but i’ve fallen in love and not pursuing the girl, cause i like the feeling, and i know this, and i met a friend yesterday, from new york, here in delhi, and it was great over drinks, coffee, and stir fry mushrooms and dandan noodles but i feel fatigue in general cause of covid-19. you were a warrior, and i was a crusader. like balian, of ibelin, but in the east, and you’re the best. goodness. thank you for this.

    • Thank my my so much for sharing your heart. I fully believe that you’re right where you’re supposed to be. We may not always understand God’s timing, but I trust in His good and perfect plan for each and every one of us. Hugs and love xox

      • I don’t know if he has a plan or he or she just guides. I believe that the stars can play a role in our lives, but we can choose, and not make, but shape our destinies. But I feel so overwhelmed now, with everything, reconciling myself with my past, my own past, and making tough choices, about life and friendships as I prepare for middle age. I’m 31 you see, and Hindu, went to the temple, but God was there, as you would say, Caralyn, and my mother today, and it helps. But I have to start again, taking charge of my little ship, or galleon, as they show in the spanish shows on netflix, and sail on seas, sometimes tranquil, sometimes stormy…etc..thank you though. abrazos and amor. xo.

      • Thanks for sharing that. Yes. We can all take charge of our little ships! Hugs and love xox

  17. I think as a corporate hotshot that also blogs I’ve been extremely well equipped so far to not get fatigued. I love working from home and do not mind the constant screens and online-time in the slightest. It would be idiotic to call Corona a good thing to happen but frankly…it does have its perks!

    • Hi friend! Oh that’s so great to hear! I’m so glad that you’ve found the silver lining! 🙂 Hugs and love xox

  18. Digital fatigue is real. Too much time on devices causes anxiety and a disconnect from what’s going on around you in the moment. A few weeks ago, I deleted the Facebook app off my phone. That was a game changer for me. Although I was making an effort to not compare, subconsciously I still was! I do still use it on my desktop at work because of essentially free advertising, PTO, and other organizations that use it as a community bulletin board. No more mindless scrolling at home. I did catch myself doing that on instagram last night, so I’ll need to check that.

    Much of our daily life has returned to in-person. Kids are in-person at school. Church is in-person. Community groups are in-person. Health and safety precautions are in place. Our active virus count is in the single digits. It was a HUGE sigh of relief when life started to shift away from digital and back to a more ‘normal’ atmosphere. I humbly, but boldly pray daily for continued health and protection for our community! I trust this has had an impact. I enjoy reading your posts. 🙂

    • You’re right about that – it causes a huge huge disconnect. Thank you for sharing that. I’m inspired to delete the Facebook app too! Hugs and love xox

  19. I’ve been depressed about being online so much, along with missing my family visits, but I feel trapped, like so many. Without zooming, messaging, blogging, etc., I’d have even fewer “social” times. It’s very wearying on the soul though…

  20. Digital fatigue is real, even in remote places like Burundi! I get exhausted and log off every evening. Thank you for spreading the word, turn off the phones!

    • thanks for sharing that Lea! oh wow – Burundi! you’re right – we’ve got to power down and connect to those around us! Hugs and love xox

  21. Yes, I definitely feel the digital fatigue this year. I’m a middle school English teacher, and there seems to be no end in sight to this distance learning. We don’t know when we are returning to the classroom – we might not even go back at all this school year. I’m hoping life can return to at least semi-normal soon.

    – Katie

    • Hi Katie, thank you for sharing your heart on this. Oh gosh, i will definitely be praying for you and your students. That must present some incredibly challenges to connect with your class! oh gosh – sending you so much love, my friend. Your strength, patience and fortitude inspire me!!! you and your fellow teachers are superheroes! Hugs and love xox

  22. It gets pretty lonesome here at home. I’m not working, but I’ve been chatting with strangers on Instagram, just to keep from going insane. We, I am definitely a social person and even though I go to the store, socialization is limited.

    • I feel you there, Jolie. It can be so isolating. I definitely felt that during the lockdown in my little studio apartment! Praying for you, friend. Yes – utilize that social media outlet! it really is a blessing for staying connected. Hugs and love xox

  23. Thank You, I just had knee replacement surgery and find myself at home basically trapped, I needed to read this today so although their are fancy ways of saying this I am sticking with this,
    “Thank You”

    • Hi Steve, oh gosh I’m sorry about your surgery! i’ll be praying for a speedy and healthy total recovery! so glad this resonated with you! Hugs and love xox

  24. Digital fatigue is so real. It’s gotten to the point where I’m starting to just shut down completely. Even reading emails and social media messages feels overwhelming. I’m thinking about doing a digital detox! Does anyone else feel this way?

    • Hello again friend! Oh gosh, I’m sorry to hear that. I’m sending you so much love and hugs through this screen. I am right there with you – overwhelming is the perfect word. I think a digital detox is a fabulous idea! Hugs and love xox

  25. I always like reading your blogs! Keep up the good work! And keep giving out those recipes, i love it! I collect most of what you post! Have a great Sunday!

  26. In my calendar 📅 ,
    the virus goes away from Nov 3

    I have sought in-person relationship. Small outdoor gatherings, and one 1:1 ‘social bubble’ is allowed.

    Yet, digital communication also has merits…
    Words, images, understanding and intuition.
    With prayer and a slower pace…

    • Hi David, those are great to do, for sure. Yes – taking connection however I can get it these days! Hugs and love xox

  27. Well stated. Luckily for me, a HazMat truck driver, I am used to spending the day “socially distanced” and when at home caring for my mother; I have great personal connection & interaction. We have been able to go to daily and Sunday Mass for several months; small church, we are spaced out. Not much changed for us. Hugs to you.

    • Hi HJ! thank you so much for sharing that. Gosh – it sounds like that’s about right! i’m glad you’ve been able to go to Mass! that’s so wonderful and truly such a gift! happy for you in that regard! Hugs and love xox

    • aw thank you Temiloluwa! oh my gosh i had the absolute BEST time. i’ve been back in NYC now for about 4 days and boy, do I ever miss Ohio. I facetimed with my little nieces today, and it brought a smile to my face. funny how filling up the “hug-meter” with real hugs really does wonders for the soul. big hugs to you xo

  28. cold springs! the view from the bear mtn bridge on the way, crazy up and down road 9 (I got caught in a snowstorm once on that road! yikes!)… and I love the pavilion on the main st that juts out into the hudson with all those cute shops. I never saw that bar though (maybe I bypassed it to go on the duchess county wine trail(s) which are right there, hint: go during harvest season). places like that keep me sane in the membrane, and when you are in such a beautiful environment the rest of the world (ahem: digital proclivities) do fade away, it does good to bare ourselves down to the important things, the beautiful earth, friends and family. 🙂 thanks, brought back some fond mems.

    • Yes!! Oh yes – that bridge is gorgeous! Me too! It’s picturesque and so beautiful! I agree. Thanks for stopping by! Glad it brought back the mems, David! Hugs and love xox

  29. Oh my word! I have said this out loud to so many people. I do speech therapy every day with limited verbal, non verbal autistic students. I am with interpreters and parents and students all day on zoom. Then church online and sisters and kids 600 miles away online and FaceTime. I need a music festival with dirty sweaty dancing beer spilling fools. ASAP. Love this.

    • Thank you so much Dr. SG! You’re so right. I want to be in a loud, crowded bar bumping into people on my way to a long line for the ladies room!!! Hahaha just want to say that I really admire your line of work! You’re helping people and that’s awesome! Hugs and love xox

  30. I’m lucky to have a wife and kids with me here. I’m also lucky to be an introvert. But I think overall, this whole Corona thing has been good for soul-searching and reassessing priorities. I’m pretty convinced there are dysfunctional things about myself and our family I would not have noticed without God forcing everything to shut down for awhile. I believe the good will outweigh the bad in the end. If having to do all my work over Zoom for awhile is the price I have to pay for that, it’s probably worth it.

    But summer 2021… goodness, that’s horrible.

    • That’s amazing. I think you’re right about that – lots of soul searching has come about!! Amen! Hugs and love xox

  31. I work for a living as a proofreader. I am look at multiple screens for at least eight hours a day and sometimes it can be as much as 12 hours a day. I love podcasts because I don’t have to look at a screen. I have a policy of disconnecting from my phone at least an hour after work. My phone is usually on do not disturb when I am at work, working out and go to sleep. I may also put it on do not disturb when I just want a break. I also limit my notifications. I do not have email notifications. I go outside for at least five minutes a day to take a walk. I only gather with the people who the closest to me. I am not fully comfortable with face to face gatherings yet but plan to do some activities with social distancing like a bonfire and even a walk because my soul is craving being social. I think it is important to know what is happening in the world but not to allow notifications to take over our lives. I love those pictures of you and your family. Thank you for sharing. I miss seeing people on a regular basis face to face but I have to believe this will not be forever.

    • Hi Ada – thank you for sharing your story. Wow that sounds like you know a thing or two about this topic! I’m with you – I LOVE podcasts! I agree. Aw thanks for your kind words. Hugs and love xox

  32. Hi Caralyn,
    What a great post, and you articulate so well, the things we are missing due to social distancing. I don’t mind it most of the time but the small gestures like the touch of a hand or a pat on the shoulder… ahhhhh, yes! Up here on the Canadian prairies it’s cold (16 to 30F today but will be *much* colder, soon), so opportunities for outside gathering are becoming challenging. We have had some bonfires with neighbours, which have been fun. Gathering on Zoom does have limitations though I’ve found that I can find community through soulful gathering on it. Take care, stay safe, and keep hiking!

    • Hi Steve! Oh gosh thank you so much. I agree – I miss the physical touch!! That’s true, thank goodness for Zoom 🙂 have a wonderful weekend! Hugs and love xox

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