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

Can We Guess Your Content Consumption Habits Based on Your BuzzFeed Quizzes?

The more “open” and “connected” our online worlds become, the less emphasis on quality there seems to be. Think about what an article needed to go through to be published decades ago. Hours of editing and desk editing and layout and styling. And when it was finally out to see the light, it was there forever.

The focus then was on quality, the privilege of being published and read by the public.

Is being published now a privilege?

In her book The People’s Platform, Astra Taylor argues that websites like Buzzfeed’s primary job is to “game social networks”. She calls viral posts content-posers, only pretending to be the content readers are used to in the traditional sense. Published interactions, if you will.

These website are so full of content. Full of content is a strange sentence to say, because “content” itself is an abstract term. But they mainly depends on user and staff-generated listicles, the more and sillier the better, because that’s what people share. If it works, it’s successful.

Taylor puts it in a way that compares journalism as an industry to something that almost lost its ground and is starting to follow were the users want to go instead of lead the cultural discussion:

“We are entering a new age where every aspect of a creative artifact’s life can be quantified, measured, and analyzed. The filter bubble and journalism have collided: a generation of newmedia moguls targets its products to respond directly to readers’ whims, scouring search engine trends, poring over most-e-mailed lists, and crafting content.”

Though it might seem harmless to have these kinds of light websites, the effect can turn around and hurt the quality of web content with every bar the user (even unintentionally) lowers. The effects are already starting to show in how mainstream media is changing their game.

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Several mainstream media are being called out for not covering important happenings now, and not until the criticism goes viral that these media outlets pay attention, because they are becoming more and more viral-oriented, rather than quality-oriented.

Big publications want a part of the cake too, if following viral content is directing consumers to Buzzfeed, get on it! Everyone wants to eventually make money, so Kim Kardashians hair shade becomes breaking news.

I agree with Taylor that vitality encourages creativity and that Buzzfeed truly managed to crack the “viral code”. After all they have a huge presence on the web that is mostly dependent on social sharing. Her arguments, however, make me more worried about the future of content as a journalist, and having to follow what Justin Beiber is having for breakfast, because that is all the content the audience wants to know.

Jay Rosen says it better in his book What Are Journalists For?

“The question mattered because certain ideas about the press follow from the view of the public they contain. If the public is assumed to be “out there,” more or less intact, then the job of the press is easy to state: to inform people about what goes on in their name and their midst. But suppose the public leads a more broken existence. At times it may be alert and engaged, but just as often it struggles against other pressures—including itself—that can win out in the end. Inattention to public matters is perhaps the simplest of these, atomization of society one of the more intricate. Money speaks louder than the public, problems overwhelm it, fatigue sets in, attention falters, cynicism swells. A public that leads this more fragile kind of existence suggests a different task for the press: not just to inform a public that may or may not emerge, but to improve the chances that it will emerge.”

An Open Letter to Lanier

Dear Mr. Lanier,

I have recently been reading your book You Are Not A Gadget for class, and while it’s not a book that I would usually read in 4 days, I did read your run-on rant on how everything has gone so, so wrong and how “new media” if we dare call it that has ruined every possible hope of a new civilization.

It should have been obvious, Mr. Lanier that since you start your book by criticizing your book that this was going to be…peculiar.

“It’s early in the twenty-first century, and that means that these words will mostly be read by nonpersons…”

also, ouch!

“—automatons or numb mobs composed of people who are no longer acting as individuals. The world will be minced into atomized search-engine keywords within industrial cloud computing facilities located in a remote, often secret locations around the world.”

You are right, Jaron. But see, even though I am the human rarity reading this book, I did use search-engine keywords and cloud computing services to read your book, and so did you probably throughout writing and publishing this book.

I agree with you that the world is becoming more technology-oriented, but that doesn’t mean we will turn into gadgets, much like the silver space suit still hasn’t made its debut in everyday culture as expected.

We are increasingly depending on technology, and it is taking a toll on us, but it has its upside. It has a huge upside that I‘m worrying you’re missing out on. Open culture didn’t drive creativity out the window, it’s just that we are still living in the capitalist world we’ve always been living in. Profit will always be the winner. Expecting that to change just because we are introducing a new medium and new platforms and new ways of publishing and connecting isn’t good for you. Because some things will simply not change in life.

The internet isn’t all low-quality content looking for money, the internet is not a big “slum”, it’s where you look that matters. Who says that only signed artists should make music, what deems them good anyway but the audience, the people?

Concerns over who is “running the internet” is a valid argument, I’ll give you that. But the “lords of the cloud” are systems and companies, and they are run by people. It always comes back to people and it always did.

Living in an open, digital culture is not a threat to my humanity, value and contribution. I am not a gadget, no one is a gadget and no one is turning into a gadget.

Why Is That Art and Why Should I Care?

Studying art is not an easy task to define, mostly because most people think being an artist has more to do with talent than school and books. Being talented is important, but then again there are millions of talented people around the world, how can any of them set themselves apart by studying art?

When you exert a big amount of effort into knowing more about something, you simply accumulate an advantage over someone who doesn’t.

This applies on the arts as well. While you can’t read a book and suddenly become an artist, knowing the basics of the industry, the history, what other artists already tried, how they think, and how people react, all adds up to your knowledge on the subject and feeds this advantage that most certainly will show in the work.

daliThe book 1st Why Is That Art by weg Terry Barrett discusses of four main areas of art; realism, expressionism, formalism, and postmodern pluralism. As a student in the iMedia program, I’m interested in art as an application tool, and design is something wholesale jerseys I want to pursue further in the professional world. But why Showroom do I have to learn about postmodern pluralism in 2015?

The answer is in what this book offers of information that goes into the foundation of how I think of art and design. Learning the very old basics of a profession in the digital world is not an oxymoron, because we rely on the value of these teachings to innovate new things.

We have amazing technologies at our service today but we are missing an advantage older generations had; learning in a linear way, starting from the very basics and going up on the difficulty scale of developed skills. We start from an advanced level of application because it’s available and so accessible to us we don’t even think about it. We don’t think how a photograph is made, we don’t have to go into a darkroom and spend time developing a picture, we can take ten pictures in one second and they are just there for us to use.

Knowing the basics thus reconnects us with this missing link. Personally, reading about the philosophies of important figures in the art world inspires me to think differently and opens this new perspective of how I view their work. It’s a basic foundations every artist needs to be aware of to build on further skills. Acquiring knowledge about what interests me in art isn’t technically difficult, the web is full of resources of articles and books taking an in-depth look through history and application on many subjects such as realism. It might be more challenging to know what to search for, how to start finding information, and filtering what is related to a specific area out of the sea of text and pictures.

This can be done by starting with the very basic information; a definition, available examples of works, and further suggested readings.

Being aware of art as an industry, as a philosophy, even as a business, feeds into my interest in design. As available as technologies have become to create such designs, it also facilitates the learning process of such art.

 

Keep Playing The Game: The Gamification of Everyday Life

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If you have been living here on this planet during the last few decades, chances are you played a video game or a hundred. And if you haven’t been told you should play less video games and do something useful, then you said it to others. But here is the twist: if you look closely, you’ll find that you’re always playing some sort of Behind a game, even when you aren’t. Social networking is a game, online shopping is a game, creative work is a game.

Throughout her book Reality is Broken, Jane McGonigal counters the belief that video games are a waste of time. She argues that video games can actually make our world better and solve the most urgent and real problems, and that Post will happen only if our daily life follows a set of constructs every good video game offers.


 “Video games can actually make our world better and solve the most urgent and real problems”


The gaming world isn’t a disconnected spectrum to McGonigal. It Remember is in many ways more rewarding and satisfying than the real world. It has defining traits; a goal, rules, a feedback system and the user’s volunteered participation. Users do unnecessarily hard work and even sometimes fail and новостей try again. The gaming world satisfies human intrinsic needs of being successful, having meaning in what they’re doing of instantly rewarding work, and connecting with other players in a social, interactive setting.

McGonigal’s approach to defining what is “a game” and how it affects reality made me think, what else around us might follow the same pattern as a game? and more importantly, how making this connection can help improve this activity and how we do our work?

Filmmaking is a game

I met a director who made a short documentary about the homeless a year ago, back then he was right in the middle of his work and it seemed to be a particularly exhausting task. His team has been working really hard, non-stop for months on the film. A question someone might ask is: Why? Why put yourself through such a hard process, and the answer would come as: “because I enjoy it.”

Even though none of the team probably thought of it as a game, their creative process was following the same pattern as a video game. They all had a goal; creating a high-quality film that goes on to be acknowledged by the intended audience and results in a positive change in society. They had rules; they used certain equipment, they had to follow certain techniques and regulations while interviewing their subjects.

The feedback system in this process was seeing their work come to life with each step, showing early versions to some people and do more editing, sometimes changing certain points in the project. All of this was done voluntarily, no one demanded they work on this project. They did have a commercial goal among their targets but they all had other day jobs and were making a living.

Working on this film- same goes for writing a book or doing similar creative work, provides the artist with a valuable sense of realizing an idea, of seeing a thought come to life in a shape and a form, it is extremely satisfying to do this and succeed, or not succeed, learn and go back to the drawing board. This gives more meaning to all the work that is being done. As failure only pushes gamers to try the level again with a different strategy, failure often does the same for artists, at least the ones who are persistent enough to keep trying. In fact you would find at least one failure story recounted by successful artists in different fields.

Realizing that dell’orso” a complicated task like making a movie can be broken down to steps and goals following the wholesale jerseys gamification module highlights how many other cases we rarely associate with the word “game” can follow the same lines. Think about an activity you feel obligated to do, grocery shopping for instance, thinking of your weekend shopping as a game where you need to get the items on your list in the least amount of time while searching the many products to choose the best and most affordable. what if you can share your successful completion and saving results with your friends? how about if the supermarket gives you an incentive of more discounts if you play the game?

McGonigal’s hypothesis grabs the attention of game designers, she herself is one, as well as gamers and people who don’t play video games that often, because it is easy to relate to and understand the link. Maybe one day gaming does make the world a better place.