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.

Networking For Good

How we network as individuals and within groups has changed with time and technologies, and with such change appear advantages and disadvantages that are being studied to determine how the future of networking would look like.

In the book Networked:The New Social Operating System, authors Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman discuss the three major revolutions that have transformed how we form social circles and interact within them: the networks revolution, the internet revolution, and the mobile revolution. The book also focuses on how this change has affected our networks as individuals, how we now approach our relationships with our families, friends, and work mates.

In this post, we take a look at two examples of how the new concept of networking can help us understand where bigger networks link together, where interactions doesn’t only take place within a network or from individuals to the surrounding few networks they belong in, but across networks to make it more possible to serve a bigger, mutual goal. One is a feature social networks have developed enough to offer, the other is a result of public collaboration across different networks.

1- Safety Check-in

After the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Nepal in April 2015, Facebook offered the Safety Check feature to alert the noch! network of an individual who has his location set to an affected area that they are Bye fine.

Mobile phones would show a simple alert from Facebook that reads “You appear to be in an area affected by X disaster, are you safe?” and there would be two options “I’m safe” or “I’m not in the area”.

As rescuing efforts tried to free people from under the rubble among the rising deaths, it was an effective way to check on someone in the midst of chaos, and a quick way for users who were near all the distress to assure their loved ones, friends, families, and every other network they were part of that they were alright.

Google has also been working on a People Finder feature to locate an individual’s network in the aftermath of a disaster.

This addition to the functions of social networks show how the technological revolutions happening so far (the networking revolution, internet revolution, and mobile revolution) can be integrated to serve our interpersonal communication. They are here one step ahead of how our social intuition works, as they usually are. It relieves us from the worry of an additional task in a difficult time of emergency.

2- Crowdsourcing help on a large scale

Seven days ago, a picture tweeted by Icelandic journalist Gissur Simonarson went viral. The picture was of a Syrian refugee father selling pens on the streets of Beirut with his sleeping daughter on his arm.

After the great amount of support under the hashtag #BuyPens, and questions of how to locate this man and help him support himself and his children, a crowdsourcing campaign was launched to raise money for him with a goal of $5,000.

In 6 days, the campaign has raised over $178,000 so far and there’s still 8 days left. more than 6,700 people from all over the world donated through the website. The story has been picked up by news websites and blogs all over the world.

A common expression between commentaries and entries on this type of crowdsourcing is “gives me hope”. Social media has gathered people everywhere with all their differences under one giant umbrella of accessible information, and whenever something happens on that big of a scale that changes someone’s life or helps a cause, we are reminded that it isn’t social media itself that does damage when it happens, but how people interact within their networks on social media. Connections aren’t formed by the medium, but by the people.

In these ways, the three revolutions have transformed how we perceive information and interact with each other, whether it is within our small circle or with the more generic networks we are sharing with millions of other people.

Research Proposal: Is Extended Consumption of Social Media Linked to Anxiety Among Teens and Young Adults?

Instant connections. That’s what new age social media promises us; we will always be connected to each other, to strangers, to our networks, and to our ideas. But with Integrais the incredible rise of the use of digital social networks that took place in the last few years, people have come to rely more on their portable devices for social interactions, and both users and researchers are asking: have we reached the feeling of being more connected, or have we become more isolated?

Is the focused attention on self-promotion related to the rise of anxiety among teenagers and young adults? Or is it the motivation this generation needed to keep up with fast-rising competition? This is what this research strives to answer.

The number of American adults who own a smartphone has doubled in the 4 years between 2011 and 2015 according to a Pew Research report. Smartphones have become essential in how we do most of our daily activities, including chatting and texting with our friends and family, and posting on social media.

By taking a look at usage patterns and behaviors of internet users between adolescence and adulthood (13-25 years old), a better understanding about the ties between the two issues will develop. Whether a causation or correlation occurs between rise of social anxiety and depression among teens and adults, and the digitalization of social connection.

The subject of interactive behavior on social media sites has been discussed heavily during the past decade due to many factors:

  1. Type of information: What is being shared and discussed on social media and how it affects participants.
  2. Privacy concerns: When we post online, we contribute into a global record that is not easy to delete, our actions online have consequences that are as fast as our ability to send something out to the world.
  3. Psychological aspects: How users feel while interacting with no one and everyone at the same time. On twitter for example, is the value of what you write calculated by how it makes you feel, or by the response it gets. Does social media make us happier by giving us a window to vent out and share, or limit us by confining our opinions in boxes of what’s popular? Through posting and reading what others post, have we created an ideal experience that can turn devastating if not “post-perfect”?

Researchers have even developed the term iDisorder to describe the stress-related disorders caused by overwhelming the brain with information from social media.

On the topic of social media and anxiety, there are studies supporting different notions. There are many aspects that causes social media users to worry and can cause alienation from the networks that are supposed to connect, few of them can be highlighted in the term FOMO (fear of missing out), the constant feeling of something amazing happening within or outside our circles without having a mean to instantly connect to it, because we live in a time when a lot of amazing things happen very fast, we need to constantly feel on top of things.

Another aspect of anxiety in the new age is the “am i good enough?” questions. Am I good enough to compete in this ever-growing community of great talents? Do I know the right people to help me get where I want? Am I taking the right steps to belong in the right circles for me? All these questions are going through minds of young people, these questions didn’t go through younger minds with this intensity and urgency decades ago, add to it the social pressure built within an overly growing network and you might be able to link anxiety to the stressful effects of this type of interactions.

This being the argument accusing Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and other networks of spreading what became a voluntarily heavy responsibility, some researchers argue that social media is not to blame for anxiety, and that as much as it can spread negativity it can also spread happy thoughts and inspire its users to a better mental state.  

These and other angles of anxiety-related disorders and how they might be linked to social networking will be the focus of my research paper. By going in-depth into anxiety issues among social media users, the results reached will hopefully give a clearer perspective of how involved certain patterns of social media consumption is with these issues of anxiety.