Social media has an amazing ability to connect people; however, with that comes both good and bad. The bad part is that anyone and everyone has the freedom to voice whatever opinion their little hearts desire, which promotes cyber bullying and allows other negativity to spread online. The good part is, the convenience and connectivity of social networks allow like-minded people to communicate, share, and help one another. One psychologist and MIT grad student, Robert Morris, used the positive aspects of social networking to formulate a site incorporating crowdsourced cognitive behavioral therapy techniques to help users “debug” their negative thoughts and overcome depression.
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The site is called Panoply and was built by Morris and a clinical psychologist from Northwestern University. The concept is simple: Build a community with like-minded individuals facing a common battle (depression), have them post anonymously about their struggles, teach them how to properly and effectively respond to posts by others using CBT methods, then observe the power of a community healing itself. When you understand or relate to a certain struggle, it’s much easier to provide advice that other sufferers will value.
“In addition to posting, [Panoply] users were encouraged to help give support, label bugs, and eventually rewrite entries themselves. In this way, the platform didn’t just dispense reappraisal; it became a place to practice it,” reports Wired Magazine.
As users seek and receive answers from their fellow Panoply community, they are part of the solution to their own problems, as well. This way, users are retraining their negative thoughts into more logical, beneficial ones, or as Morris puts it, “It’s really about trying to readjust your thinking to bring better health.”
Morris is adapting Panoply into an iPhone app called Koko, which will be available this fall, according to FastCompany. The app version will provide greater accessibility and convenience to everyday people who are looking for help with their mental illness or, even, help through a difficult time. How can Koko help professionals in their careers?
Morris provides this example: “Some people go into a downward spiral when laid off, where others are resilient and bounce right back.” His hope with Koko is to help those individuals who view being laid off as the end of the world turn to their community members and find the silver lining in such life events. Even everyday work issues such as having a terrible boss or a lousy co-worker can be wearing on a person over time, so professionals could definitely find solace in knowing that they’re not alone and they have somewhere to turn to gain constructive, positive advice. As Norman Vincent Peale reminds us, “Change your thoughts and you change your world.”
Furthermore, the pressures of trying to balance life and work can become overwhelming, to say the least, and it can become frighteningly easy to slip into a negative mental state due to the monotony and stress. Maintaining one’s mental health is just as important, if not more, as maintaining one’s physical health. Social media has helped and continues to help people around the world find support and inspiration for their weight-loss goals in a community-based setting, so why not form an online community to help people reach their mental health goals, too? Koko aims to do just that.
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