White Paper: Using the Internet for a Better State of Mind

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Introduction and Background: 
A previous research paper I worked on titled Consumption of Social Media and Anxiety Among Teens and Young Adults reviewed literature that studied young adults’ usage of social media, instant messaging apps and other online networks, and discussed the effects of the internet and social media on anxious and lonely people. The paper revealed that the Internet can sometimes help users feel less worried and more connected, but it also revealed some of the downsides of being always connected and constantly in the know.

Such negative outcomes were observed by studying teenagers’ and young adults’ internet time spend and how they felt afterwards compared to how they generally feel. Participants of a number of studies revealed that constantly browsing the internet makes them more anxious as they often waste time and it affects school or work time. They experience a fear of missing out (FOMO) on what their friends were doing at any time of day. Some participants expressed how hard it is to take a break and log off social media for even a week. That, among other reasons, counters the idea of having the internet as a social connection tool.

However, the internet can actually alleviate some of the stress everyday life causes. In a recent Pew Research study, women especially were found to feel less anxious or stressed after using Twitter, even if they are not heavy users of the micro blogging site themselves. It provides the tools that, if used right, have a great potential in helping people mentally prepare for the day and be motivated.

This white paper aims to fill in some gaps I found while researching the topic from a positive and negative stand points, as well as introduce some of the solutions that can use the skills I’m learning in the iMedia program to tackle some of those issues and make the internet a better space for users who might feel something is missing to make their browsing process more useful.

 

Target Audience: 

Possible interactive media solution for these problems will mainly target teenagers and young adults (15-25 years old). As they are the main age range that were studied in my literature review, so information on how they think and feel about social media have backup scientific data.

This age range also represents the heaviest users of social media and who are more likely to be affected by that heavy use.

 

Approaches and Possible Solutions: 

A More Productive Space

Social media directly affects productivity. Brooks (2015) argues that no matter how participants could demonstrate their multitasking skills, social media affected task performance and contributed to the decrease of the level of happiness. Brooks also uses the term “technostress” to refer to the stress caused by the use of technology throughout the day. The heavier the usage of social media, the more technostress the sample suffered.

Consequently, the Internet is sometimes viewed as a time waster, usually because of the limitless things you can find there which can encourage procrastination if the user is not careful.

Social media also fall into the category of huge time-wasters. Even though it provides a great tool for networking and connecting, spending many hours posting updates on Facebook or tweeting is not a good sign of using it to its utmost potential.

With the great tools the internet provides, the users need to feel they are being assisted. That’s what technology were created for to begin with.

 

Possible solution:

A daily online assistant hub for tasks, inspirational ideas and timelines. This website would provide a workspace with settings to help the user focus as much as possible by eliminating any online distractions. It would provide ways to block social media, calculates actual time spent working and remind the user to take breaks to rest eyes and exercise.

The website would target college students, writers and users who want to focus on a certain task and not risk stumbling on the many distractions of the internet.

 

The Culture of Complaining Vs. Searching for Inspiration

The idea of sharing anything with a large group of people is linked with how users can sometimes feel pressure to say something on social media, which in turn results in complaints or trivial oversharing, which leads to more stress in young users.

There’s too much negativity the average social media user is greeted with when they first open Facebook or Twitter. Complaints about products, behaviors, other people, and a different spectrum of things that don’t go right. And post by post, it can get friends on social media contagiously stressed just by reading the posts. The motivation behind such posts is often boredom, the need to share something but not knowing what.

Users find themselves usually straying in their search for ideas, which causes more time to pass by without a good amount of work accomplished. Instead of using the vast amount of information and content available on the internet, users become bored of the search and the click baits, and sometimes not inspired as often as needed, yet always busy.

 

Possible solution:

A website that allows you to select a number of websites to search from upon logging in. The site remembers choices and shows the user related search results from their sites.

Once the user searches on a specific topic, they’ll see results following the specific type of content they set. It could be courses from Lynda.com and Lifehack articles, Wikipedia entries and YouTube videos, or any other collection of resources. That way, the user can select their resources and get less unrelated or distracting results.

 

Relaxing Online

Being distracted multiple times a day by social media and internet browsing is a common problem. However, the internet can have a relaxing and calming effects if used smartly.

A study found out that employers who take internet browsing breaks between tasks perform better than employers who don’t take these breaks. Moreover, with high-end technology and virtual reality becoming more popular and affordable, there’s more reason and potential for the internet to help people become more mentally prepared for a busy day.

 

Possible solution:

An online relaxing hub that offers tools to help a user relax and disconnect.

This hub will be a go-to website for anyone seeking a break whether they are in the office or home after a long day.

Some of the feature may include and not limited to:

  • Relaxing exercises: Yoga, breathing exercises and meditations with categories varying from weekend mornings to short work breaks.
  • Virtually visiting the world’s most relaxing beaches via Google Street View and having a 360 experience within the site.
  • Relaxing music and calming talks.
  • Guided breaks between study or work.

 

What is social media anxiety?

Another problem is how the target age range users might not be aware of the problems the overuse of social media causes, which usually leads to missed opportunities and multiplying the negative effects of the problem while it can actually have positive effects on teenagers and young adults.

 

Possible solution:

An informative website that lists information on the different kinds of anxiety, the social media roles in highlighting/helping teenagers and young adults with social anxiety and loneliness, as well as suggested ways to help users cultivate a healthier online routine. All in an interactive way.

 

Conclusion: 

The right internet tools can be used to bring users to a better state of mind. Taking a break doesn’t need to mean shutting off the internet, on the contrary, it inspires to work more on getting the positive potential more popular among its heaviest users who are, according to studies, experiencing its strongest effects as a negative and positive medium.

This capstone project will involve a website that would be of assistance to a young adult in achieving a goal, whether it is to do more work, smartly and in less time, or help them relax and take a break. Both approaches acting as motivation for the user to create more and become more productive.

 

Sources: 

  1. http://abcnews.go.com/US/web-browsing-makes-workers-happier-productive-study/story?id=14362815
  2. Brooks, S. (2015) Does personal social media usage affect efficiency and well-being? Computers in Human Behavior, 46, Pages 26–37. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2014.12.053
  3. http://www.businessinsider.com/productive-ways-to-spend-time-online-2014-8
  4. http://www.cmdconf.net/2014/pdf/36.pdf
  5. http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/latest-columns/20140228-how-can-we-change-the-culture-of-complaint.ece
  6. http://www.healthline.com/health-news/venting-emotions-facebook-contagious-031414
  7. http://www.incomediary.com/how-to-be-more-productive-online-5-proven-tips
  8. http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/take-a-break-10-websites-to-help-you-relax-for-two-minutes/
  9. http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/01/15/social-media-and-stress/
  10. Repetto, C., Gaggioli, A., Pallavicini, F., Cipresso, P., Raspelli, S. & Riva, G. (2013). Virtual reality and mobile phones in the treatment of generalized anxiety disorders: a phase-2 clinical trial. Pers Ubiquit Comput 17, 253–260. doi: 10.1007/s00779-011-0467-0
  11. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0305048398000280
  12. Wang, Y., Niiya, M., Mark, G., Reich, S. & Warschauer, M. (2015) Coming of Age (Digitally): An Ecological View of Social Media Use among College Students. Proceedings of the 18th ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work & Social Computing, (CSCW ’15). 571-582. doi:10.1145/2675133.2675271.

Ireland Fly-In: Project Reflections

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During winter term at the iMedia MA program at Elon University, students fly to different locations around the world to work with non-profit organizations and groups on a project for the public good.
This year, our team went to Ireland to work with our client Mícheál Ó Foighil to help develop Abair Leat, the first Irish language messaging app.
Together our team created a website, a social media plan, wireframes, screen designs and promotional videos for Abair Leat, creating something that Micheal can pitch for funding to make the app a reality.

 

Abair Leat – Commercial from Salma Tantawi on Vimeo.

 

The most motivating part of this project is the role the app will play in solving a wider cultural problem; Irish teens have no convenient way of using Irish on social media. Their words always get autocorrected to English thus discouraging them and their peers from communicating in their original language, which use in the community has been drastically declining.
My role in the project was the video/photography lead. Together with Micheal, we made the best of our visit to Ireland by getting footage that represented the culture in the towns and cities we visited, as well as talk to experts in the communication field about the language use. During our visit to a school in Tullamore, we also heard from high school students, Abair Leat main target age range audience, about how they use social media, and what are their thoughts about Abair Leat after testing the app.

 

Abair Leat – Promotional Video from Salma Tantawi on Vimeo.

 

What we heard while being on site was different from what we were expecting preparing for our project. Irish is not only an old language used in official settings, teenagers actually yearn for a way to use it more, they love their language and they wish there was a way to always use it, and more people to speak it with.
As one girl we interviewed said “I always say my hellos and goodbye in Irish, even when I’m in the city and when no one understands me. It’s the way I connect with my culture.”
Hopefully many will be able to text and chat in Irish soon not only learn Irish in school.
In addition to the videos above, we created a video that shows part of our experience as a team which was a great and a rewarding opportunity for us to work on a real project in a challenging setting.

 

Ireland Fly-In 2016 Team video from Salma Tantawi on Vimeo.

Inverin, Galway & Tullamore