Which social media trends are having a negative impact on our mental health? How can we have a healthier relationship with social media in our everyday lives? Kaja Perina, Editor in Chief of Psychology Today, leads a panel on the impact of social media on mental health.

Kaja Perina
Moderator
Editor in Chief
Psychology Today
@kajaperina
Alexa Curtis
Blogger
A Life in the Fashion Lane
@alexa_curtis
Jamison Monroe
Founder
Newport Academy
@jamisonmonroe
Abbey Goodman
Editorial Director
Whisper
@whisper
Jenna Birch
Freelance Journalist & Contributing Writer
Yahoo Beauty
@jennabirch
Kat Glick
LPC, LCADC, BCHHP
Talkspace
@talkspace
Join_Banner@2x

Kaja Perina:
Hey guys. See if there’s enough room on the stage for all of us here. Bigger than the last panel. Here we go. As you know, this is going to be about social media and mental health. I look forward to, in addition to everyone live tweeting and Instagramming this panel, just as you did for the last one, I understand. We can also all worry about the fall out and the inter psychic problems of doing so after we conclude this panel and see what’s really at stake.

Okay, so here we have today Alexa Curtis. Alexa is a teen blogger who covers lifestyle and fashion, as well as many other topics, on many platforms, which we will hear about. Next to Alexa is Jameson Monroe. Jameson is the founding director of Newport Academy, a mental health treatment center for adolescents and young adults with various locations in California, New York, and Connecticut. To his left is Abbey Goodman. Abbey is the editorial director of Whisper, which is a very interesting anonymity, anonymous social sharing app, which we will be hearing more about. Then we have Jenna Birch, who writes very widely, and for a range of publications, about lifestyle, health, and psychology matters. Finally, Katherine Glick is a holistic psycho therapist and Katherine has a practice here in the tri state area, as well as Philadelphia.

Let’s get started with you, Alexa. Something these guys may not know is that you are 18 years old.

Alexa Curtis:
Yes.

Kaja Perina:
Which makes you probably the youngest panelist here, but for sure a member of generation Z. Generation Z is also known as the social first generation. I would love to know what your media diet looks like. What your social media consumption is. There was a CNN study recently stating that generation Z spends about 9 hours a day …

Alexa Curtis:
Crazy.

Kaja Perina:
On the media. Not necessarily social, but media. Break that down for us.

Alexa Curtis:
Totally. Well, as a teen blogger, and I also attended public school through out my sophomore year, before I transferred to online, I really started witnessing and seeing at the forefront of what young adults are doing on social media and how they are allowing it to take over their life. It’s kind of scary. I mean, one of the reasons I switched from public school to online school was because I couldn’t deal with the fact that you walk in nowadays into the cafeteria, everybody’s on their cell phone. People don’t talk any more. You’re taking a picture in the bathroom, you’re talking about another girl who’s in your class, via your cell phone.

I think that’s why I’ve decided, especially, to start working with Talkspace, because I think mental health, as social media grows, should be discussed so much more openly in public schools and from a really young age with parents and young adults and teenagers.

Kaja Perina:
Tell us about the specific apps that you and your cohort use.

Alexa Curtis:
Yeah, so Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest. I think those are really big right now and we’ve also seen a huge push with SnapChat. I don’t know, some of you guys are obviously a tad older than me, have used SnapChat, but it’s blown up. For good and bad reasons, we’ve seen a lot of sexting. I think that’s originated from SnapChat. I’m pretty sure that’s one of the first reasons it was born. Now a lot of bloggers and press use SnapChat as a way to build their audience, but people also use it to destruct other young adults. Just use it as another tool to gain power. I think it just depends on what we, as a society, decide to show young adults. How to use it and the right ways to do it.

Kaja Perina:
One commonality of all of these apps and platforms is the idea of constructing a social self. We call it the selfie culture.

Alexa Curtis:
Totally.

Kaja Perina:
We’ve all talked about this. Jenna, you have written about the selfie culture and the problems that can arise when somebody is really overly focused on a public and very superficial, in many cases, image.

Jenna Birch:
Right. There’s something called the looking glass self, which is a concept in psychology that shows that our self image is not just created by what we think about ourselves, but also what we think others think about ourselves. When you’re posting to social media and you don’t get enough likes, then all of a sudden you have a worse self image than you might have had otherwise. We have so many way by which we can be judging each other and then we judge ourselves based on how we think that there people are seeing us. This can create anxiety, it can create a lot of depression. I think, like Alexis said, we’re just consumed by what others think about us at all times. Whether it’s Instagram, Facebook, we put those photos out for validation. It’s really effecting us mentally.

Kaja Perina:
Okay, so in terms of photos specifically, there is a trend towards what’s called fitspiration or “fitspo.” Some of you have written about this.

Jamison Monroe:
Bikini body guide.

Kaja Perina:
What’s that?

Jamison Monroe:
Bikini … Hashtag bbg.

Kaja Perina:
There we go. You all know about it, clearly.

Jamison Monroe:
Even I know.

Kaja Perina:
Well, I’m going to go look for yours after this panel. Fitspiration is something that we’ve also looked at at Psychology Today. Let me tell you guys what it is. It is basically the process of posting on Pinterest or Instagram.

Alexa Curtis:
Instagram’s really big with it.

Kaja Perina:
Instagram would be an obvious place. Highly muscled, athletic, but also thin photos by young women for young women. The idea is fitspiration. You’re inspired to continue to diet, lose weight, bulk up. There’s actually been some interesting and alarming data about what this really does to women’s body image. Young women have always struggled with body image, but these days, with the fitspo movement, it’s always in their face. It becomes more interactive. The literature we’ve published actually found that a range of body images are now harmful, not just the thin, but also the thin and muscular. What you have found, Jenna, in this regard?

Jenna Birch:
I’m finding a lot of the similar things. I think that thinspiration really took a real hit when that came out. People really bashed it, but I think fitspiration there’s a sense of health surrounding it. It’s unhealthy, masquerading as healthy. A lot of people are consuming the fitspiration and they’re comparing themselves in that way. Then they can hop on Pinterest and find new recipes to cut calories. It’s becoming a health keeping up with the Jones’s, which is just incredibly difficult to constantly keep up. What we don’t realize is these are Snapchats. These are moments. That they’re highly … I think Essena O’Neill came out and really … She showed us how fake, I think, Instagram, can be. That is … It’s a highly staged photo most of the time. These are people that are pouring so much energy into looking a certain way and keeping up a certain image. I really think that that’s hard.

I think that’s a lot of stress on the person doing it that we don’t really understand behind the photograph. Also on people who are trying to keep up with that and thinking that that’s a level that they can obtain. That’s a lot of anxiety and a lot of self doubt. Just wrecking our self image.

Kaja Perina:
Katherine, as a holistic therapist, do you see clients struggling with this as well and sort of integrating this into your work with them?

Kat Glick:
Sure. Absolutely. There is such a push to adhere to the societal standard of beauty and what the ideal standards are of beauty. Especially with young girls who are so impressionable and, as you mentioned, getting that validation from their environment, from their peers, and that’s what they base their own self concept, their own self worth, their own idea of how they conceptualize their own beauty. It’s all based on how others view them and the feedback and the reinforcement that they get from others. I think also it contributes to such a high prevalence rate of eating disorders in young women. When you look and examine at all the models of cause of lots of different mental disorders. Socio cultural model really sticks with the eating disorders, as opposed to some of the other models that speak to causes of other mental issues.

Again, it speaks to the pressure of society, of peers, of culture, of really having to meet the ideal standard. It’s tough.

Kaja Perina:
Yeah, and as we know young women have generation and generation out struggled with eating disorders and body dysphoria. Alexa, you’re in the generation that’s now, again, online. Do you have a sense, from talking to older women, if this has changed? If there are cultural shifts based on fitspo and other online avenues?

Alexa Curtis:
Totally. I mean, it’s kind of traumatizing in a way that I’ll go on my Instagram popular feed and up will show 10 or 15 girls with six packs. They’re counting their macros, girls under 21. What is a macro? I thought macrobiotic diet. No, it’s …

Kaja Perina:
What is a macro?

Alexa Curtis:
I don’t even know and I’m into fitness, but it’s like it’s crazy. At the end of the day, “Okay, I’ve got 500 calories left. I can eat a Quest Bar or a pint of Ben and Jerry’s.” You’ll see that people will take videos of this now. You go on YouTube and you see that people post them eating 10,000 calories for the day. It’s a 10,000 calorie diet. You know, people try and make it seem like it’s really good and like I’m getting in shape and stuff, but it’s not. It’s just enabling other young adults to track what they’re doing and then it becomes obsessive. I think, obviously, when Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, when that wasn’t around, people probably … I mean, obviously had mental issues when it comes to food and anorexia and eating disorders and stuff, but now it’s just, it’s accepted to track that kind of stuff. It’s like it’s cool and it’s trendy. A four pack to a six pack to a god knows whatever pack you can get, the max. That’s really expected.

Kaja Perina:
Jameson, how do you help young people coming into your program?

Jamison Monroe:
Well, yeah, let me just add to what we see and I think a little bit about why we see it is that we treat teenagers for eating disorders, for self harm behavior, for drug addictions, trauma, and a lot of different mental health issues in both in patient centers and out patient centers. When I was a senior in high school in ’98 and ’99 in Houston, Texas, the whole school got laptops. Our bigger distraction was we were AOL Instant Messaging each other in class.

Alexa Curtis:
Totally.

Jamison Monroe:
We didn’t have cell phones yet, but it was hugely distracting before they figured out how to control the internet, years later. It was a wide open network the first year. It was great, but what’s interesting is that social media, in my opinion, I think we already talked about the pros and the cons. I think we’re talking about some of the cons right now is that, as Kat was saying, the social acceptance of … It’s Fitspo but it’s Thinspo, pro-ana, it’s current weight, it’s goal weight. We look at all the stuff and we see a lot of teenage girls coming in with their social media profiles based on a lot of these things. It makes the obsessive weight, workout, calories more socially acceptable. Whereas in the past, if you had a small group of girls in a community and one or two had the issue, everyone knew about it, but now you can just sit in your room by yourself and be connected to so many people that are sharing this obsession a little bit more in the dark or in the closet, if you will.

Kaja Perina:
This public, almost performative aspect can actually fuel the behavior.

Jamison Monroe:
Exactly. Yeah, exactly. What we also see is that on the whole social media side of things and we’re talking about … a little bit is that it’s not only the obsession of being something, physically speaking, but we’re talking about socially speaking. When you get a like or a number of likes, when you reach a certain status in one of those social media platforms. Each like increases dopamine as we’ve seen in a lot of research, right? Well, guess what? Cocaine increases dopamine. Making yourself vomit if you’re bulimic increases dopamine. These are reward things for the brain and in an adolescent that has a rapidly developing brain and those reward centers and those pleasure centers are all coming on board in different ways, at different times. If they’re deriving pleasure from this, then that could be … It’s a whole new paradigm again, then it could be a recipe for ignoring real world pleasures of building true person to person relationships and things like that. That’s where I find some caution.

Kaja Perina:
I absolutely think we will get into this question of how reward centers can be hijacked by online use, but I want to also say that we all know, because we’re all here, and technology users, that there are many really positive outlets for technology in the mental health space and in the mental health treatment space and in the Talkspace. I want to ask Abbey to show a little bit about Whisper, which is a relatively new, I think launched in 2012.

Abbey Goodman:
Yeah, Whisper is the largest online social platform where people share their real thoughts and feelings, without identities. It was basically started in response to everything we’re talking about here. The pressure of the performative aspect of social media creating anxiety, insecurity. Our CEO and co-founder, Michael Heyward wanted to have a place where people could have honest, authentic conversations, where we’re not tied to likes or images, the highlight reel so to speak. Speaking of body image, we have, after the weekend, we notice that our users, after they’re seeing their friends on social media, at parties and other platforms, showing the best of their weekend. We notice that on Mondays there’s often a conversation about body image or about these topics that are a result of the looking glass effect.

Kaja Perina:
Abbey, did you have some slides that you wanted to show? Oh, here we go.

Abbey Goodman:
Here’s just some examples of the type … At Whisper, we believe in using anonymity as a shield and not a sword. It’s a place to talk about what you really think and share confessions, trade advice. People are documenting personal journeys. This is just some examples of what you see when it comes to what people are sharing.

Kaja Perina:
From the humorous to heart breaking, right?

Abbey Goodman:
Exactly. Here’s an example. We have some partnerships. This is with the Ad Council about bullying. At Whisper, we of course have a zero tolerance policy for bullying and harassment and we do that with pro active moderation, but also infusing these discussions right into the conversations within the community. Here’s an example that we had. Previous was Ad Council, this is an ad campaign that we both feel passionately about and want to make sure that, again, in the spirit of this authentic conversation, to not sweep some of these discussions under the rug. To have them out in the open. It’s been extremely successful. This is our non profit arm, Your Voice.

Kaja Perina:
Abbey.

Abbey Goodman:
Sorry.

Kaja Perina:
No, no, sorry. A question about anonymity. I think that’s a key factor here. It seems to me that there is a shift towards anonymous use online generally. SnapChat is a little more obscured in that one doesn’t know the number of followers, is that correct?

Alexa Curtis:
You can’t track them, but you know who your friends are. You know who adds you and stuff.

Kaja Perina:
One’s a little shielded, Whisper, of course, completely anonymous. There’s a new app that just launched called Koko. It was developed at the MIT Media Lab. People post anonymous questions and invite that sort of hive mind to suggest reframes. I think it’s important to note there that people aren’t just giving advice, but they’re actually going in and helping people rethink the posted problem. Also completely anonymous. Do you think that the anonymity, as well as active moderation in these communities, allows people to be more authentic and to feel protected?

Abbey Goodman:
Absolutely. We promote an atmosphere of positivity, authenticity, and empathy. Also, anonymity, there’s research. Michael Slepian from Columbia University studies secrecy. He’s found that people who feel that they have a secret or something that they can’t share with anyone else, whatever variety, life becomes more difficult all around when you’re carrying that around. When you share that, anonymously, you instantaneously relieve that burden. There’s catharsis in just the act of it and within Whisper there is this supportive community around it.

Kaja Perina:
How does that translate into real world or text mediated therapy, Katherine? In terms of disclosure?

Kat Glick:
I think, and this is one of the beauties of Talkspace, is the the anonymity factor. It allows people that struggle with shame, struggle with guilt, struggle with issues that they would not otherwise feel comfortable speaking with somebody face to face about. It allows them to have a platform to come and just get that stuff out. Have that catharsis and actually have it receive by a trained professional who can help that person work through some of those things. I’ve had a number of clients who have stated to me that they would never share some of the things that they share with me with somebody face to face.

Kaja Perina:
Really?

Kat Glick:
But the fact that I can’t see their face, the fact that I don’t know every personal demographical information about them, the fact that they have that protection, allows them to feel more free to actually seek the help that they need to get.

Kaja Perina:
That actually makes a lot of sense. I know Criss Text Line, which is a very big first point of contact for people, also completely anonymous, has found similar findings in that regard. In terms of the disclosure factor. Let’s go back to Jameson’s point, about media overuse because this is something that we’ve all back channeled about. We all, I think, in our own lives, know is a problem. How does social media use factor into the people you are meeting at Newport?

Jamison Monroe:
Gotcha. Well, I think we’ve covered some of the ways that it makes risky behavior a little more socially acceptable. We didn’t talk about cutting too much, but self harm and cutting, I think we’ve seen a big uptick in that as technology has become more prevalent, actually. Like you said, I don’t have Instagram on my phone for a reason. It’s because, for me, I check it too much. It’s too distracting. It’s good and bad, right? But in our inpatient treatment facilities, we’re very fortunate in that we don’t allow technology. It’s great, kids have to give over their cell phone, and it’s literally … There are withdrawal symptoms. Literally there are withdrawal symptoms that are very similar to any type of drug. Look at heroin, look at the physical symptoms of heroin withdrawal and you’ll see cell phone withdrawal is very similar. I mean you’ve got shakes, you’ve got super high anxiety.

Kaja Perina:
Seriously?

Jamison Monroe:
Increased heart rate. You’ve just got all these crazy things. You’ll see for the first few days of treatment, kids don’t know what to do. They literally don’t know what to do with themselves when they have a quiet moment. Now, we teach them meditation and mindfulness and yoga and a lot of DBT skills and a lot of coping skills to self regulate their anxiety and emotions that have been there, but they’ve been self medicating with something else. That’s where in the whole treatment of things, we find that when someone reaches a point to where social media has more or less taken over their lives or, if you want to call it, an addiction to technology. Or to gaming, or the World of Warcraft, or something like that. That’s the last straw, if you will.

When we go to peel back the curtain and we look at the underlying causal issues so that we can address those, really. We see a lot of gamers, their real diagnosis will be OCD and then underneath that OCD, you’ve got a lot of toxic stress, early childhood trauma. Things like that that we need to address that these coping mechanisms have been layered on top to where, finally, we get a call from a parent who’s like, “My son is in his room for 14 days straight and he’s up for 72 hours at a time, I don’t know what to do.”

Kaja Perina:
So often the tech issue is the very contemporary response to an underlying …

Jamison Monroe:
An underlying mental health and emotional …

Kaja Perina:
An underlying problem.

Jamison Monroe:
Exactly.

Kaja Perina:
Alexa, you’re nodding your head. Have you tried to detox and not been able to, so to speak? Tech detox? Got to be careful with that word here.

Alexa Curtis:
Yes, and I think it’s funny because you’re older than me and hearing what you actually think about people like me who are on their phone all the time. I think, definitely the fact that I’m a full time blogger. I have to, a lot of the times, go to dinner and force myself to put down my phone, but it’s like, what if it’s a working dinner. What if I have to take pictures of this dinner? Then an hour into the dinner, I’m still on my cell phone. I think a lot of young adults, you feel that anxiety when you don’t have your phone. I mean, even if I don’t have my phone and I can’t check my email or especially, if you have no service, it’s like your mind, it just doesn’t stop. It’s kind of scary, a lot of time.

Kaja Perina:
It doesn’t stop. That’s interesting. It doesn’t spot. Jenna, is this something that you have studied and written about, as well?

Jenna Birch:
Yeah, in part, it’s making us socially awkward. I think in some ways, that we’re connecting to each other on these islands alone sometimes, but constantly. It’s a constant feedback kind of thing. In the millennial generation, too, I’ve done the same thing where I’ve tried to scale back on my social media use. I have a friend who checks her phone twice a day. That’s it. To us, it’s bizarre. It’s like, “Why on earth are you not getting back to me?” We realized that she was doing this twice a day. She just seems more free of things. It’s good, if you need it, to be able to say, “Okay, I’m doing too much,” and to really scale back.

Kaja Perina:
But how does a person who maybe isn’t … Doesn’t have great executive function and isn’t so well regulated, implement that for themselves? Katherine, this is something you work with people on,

Kat Glick:
Sure. Well, you know, it’s challenging, especially if you grow up with technology being so normal. I was fortunate enough to grow up in an area where we also didn’t have cell phones. Even when cell phones, they weren’t … Nobody really used it for texting. Texting was this foreign thing. The generation now, that’s grown up with having phones with them from early childhood, it’s really challenging to have to implement self control strategies. Especially, and this is something that, just to speak a little bit to what Jameson said, there is this compulsive need to escape from the present moment. Especially if the moment is uncomfortable or painful, or boring, or if you don’t have other skills to navigate through negative emotions or even just feelings or boredom. There’s this constant need to just escape from that. Learning how to tolerate boredom and other negative emotions and actually stay in anxiety, as opposed to have this constant need to push it away, or to escape through a screen. Utilizing mindfulness practices, just to have that self awareness of, “Okay, what’s going on internally with me right now? What would be a good choice as far as my response to myself?”

Kaja Perina:
It occurs to me that Whisper is, in a way, a positive attempt to reframe a difficult present moment.

Abbey Goodman:
Absolutely. We have, to speak to that, our users are going on, sort of staying in that present moment, discomfort or need to release, going onto the app twenty times a day to be in this moment, but also relieve themselves of the same thing. We have what was up on the screen earlier, we have a non profit arm called Your Voice, talking about de-stigmatizing mental health issues for young adults. Any conversation that comes out of Whisper is also backed by resources to be able to get the help that you need.

Jamison Monroe:
I think that it’s … Sometimes I compare it to the drug war. In the drug war for decades, we’ve been trying to limit the supply, but what we really need to do is work on the demand. Right? Same thing with social media. We’ve seen this huge influx of all this content. It’s only going to get greater and greater and greater, but there’s no way to disseminate the good from the bad yet. You know what I mean? Which is why I love our host here today and other people like Whisper that are trying to put out more positive and free spaces for people to navigate what’s going on in their lives. What’s going on in their lives today is a lot of social media type stuff, is based on technology, right? I haven’t seen a 5th grade class on best practices in internet usage. You know what I mean? Where’s that class?

Kaja Perina:
Well, is it happening at Newport?

Jamison Monroe:
Yeah, absolutely, and when kids get towards the end of their stay, we get online with them and we go through all their social media profiles. We delete some of them and start new ones. We eliminate friends and add new friends. We got our own small secret groups on Facebook.

Kaja Perina:
You eliminate friends? That is very big brotherish.

Jamison Monroe:
Well, they do it. The kid does it themselves. We guide them through the process of asking themselves, “Is this person going to be good for me in my new path?”

Kaja Perina:
But if you have an average 10 year old who’s about to get her first Instagram account, super excited. What would you tell her to do? How would you tell her to check it? I’d love to hear from anyone on this.

Alexa Curtis:
Going to add something to what you said, I think it’s crazy that none of these topics that we’re talking about today are discussed in high school yet. They’re still teaching kids D.A.R.E and D.A.R.E is proven that it doesn’t do anything. I didn’t learn anything from that. I mean, I went out and experimented on my own with my friends and stuff, but why, when I go back into a high school … I spoke at my old high school. Are there not teaching kids these topics? I think that’s really frustrating, but …

Jamison Monroe:
I think we’re yet to see it, and maybe someone … I think it’s going to need to come through web based technology, through e-learning platforms, where we see social media literacy for the 10 year old. I don’t see it out there.

Jenna Birch:
I think it’s about creating balance. In terms of most behavior change, if you go about it from a place of deprivation, you’re often not going to have successful outcomes. It’s about creating this balance, so for parents that have young children, it’s about limiting their time with that technology, but also building in other activities that promote pleasure and a sense of belonging. A sense of connection. Having as much as those activities as part of that child or adolescent’s daily routine as technology is. Creating that balance there, I think, is really helpful.

Kaja Perina:
How much is too much? I think that’s a question everyone in the room has to answer for themselves, but we’d all love, I would love, a guideline.

Jenna Birch:
I think that there’s no real number. I think it’s very individualized, but when it starts to create problems, when there’s disruption in functioning, not to be all clinical about it, but when the person or when the adolescent is failing to do the other things that are expected of them. When they’re starting to withdraw socially. When they’re starting to have withdrawal symptoms, when they can’t have technology around them. That’s indicative of an actual problem. That’s when you have to start to implement practices to scale back and create that balance.

Kaja Perina:
Do you find any commonalities among your power users? Positive or negative, Abbey?

Abbey Goodman:
Yeah, we find that there’s a sense of kindness. Again, some of those slides we’re showing, people going on to Whisper specifically to promote positivity. We, of course, have started that way as our core values and make a content and connection from that place. It’s important that, for us, Whisper, our golden rule at Whisper is don’t be mean, don’t be gross, don’t use Whisper to break the law. From there, we allow the conversations to take place, but also from a user standpoint and for our community, we are promoting kindness, we are sending out messages telling people morning messages of positivity, inspirational quotes or conversations to help make sure that this is a place where people understand that, although there’s some, like we said, heartbreaking conversations, there’s the positive environment to be able to continue those conversations safely.

Kaja Perina:
Great, thank you. Let’s go to questions now. We did not have a Tweet livestream coming through, so now’s the time. Yes?

Audience Member 1:
Hey. I have a question …

Kaja Perina:
Could you wait for the mic please?

Audience Member 1:
Sure. Hi. I have a question, I’m someone who … I write frequently about fitspiration. I’m very interested, I’m still in the media and I write about body image.

Kaja Perina:
Katherine?

Audience Member 1:
My name is Katherine.

Kaja Perina:
Katherine actually wrote the fitspiration piece in Psychology Today. Nice to see you.

Audience Member 1:
Thank you for that opportunity. I’m curious to know if you have any advice for media professionals who get the directive, “Start writing more posts that cater to women’s body insecurities because it gets more hits.” How do you work with that and how can I work with that?

Jenna Birch:
That is a really … That’s a tough thing to do. I’ve gotten those kinds of requests as well. I was just talking about someone this morning about are we really reaching a place of body acceptance? Some sort of looking at flaws showing us that we’re all individual and different. In some cases, I have had to say, this just doesn’t feel in line with some message that I want to put out there. You have to draw that line of what … Really dig down deep and think, “Is this a message that I want to go out there?” It is really hard to continuously perpetuate these images of comparison. If we can get away from that culture of comparison where we’re always looking at someone else’s body. Comparing it to our own and deciding which is better, bodies change all the time. Bodies are beautiful because they’re functioning and they’re healthy. We want to find a way to get to a place where you’re contributing to the conversation in a positive way, but not always comparing in a way that can be turned to negative.

Kaja Perina:
Thank you.

Jenna Birch:
It’s something to meditate on.

Jamison Monroe:
Yeah, but I mean, every publishing platform is in the business of advertising, getting eyeballs, right? You’ve got to create something that is going to sell and people are going to click on. A good title helps, but then also, like she said, including that content would be so valuable to people, you know what I mean? Like I said earlier, when I go online, I get inspired to work out because I see people that are fit and healthy and stuff like that. Like Rich Roll, he’s a vegan triathlete. He looks like Adonis, you know what I mean? That inspires me to go out and run a few miles. That’s where, on the positive side of things, it can be extremely positive to motivate people and to be healthy as well. I think including not all the bad, but a lot of the good as well, in any piece that you write would be very welcome.

Audience Member 1:
Thank you.

Audience Member 2:
My question was, I’ve been thinking about social media and the responsibility that there is for sites like Whisper, Facebook, Twitter. Some sites now have the ability to report or notify about people who may be suicidal or who need resources and referrals. I’m wondering, is there a responsibility for sites like Whisper to offer referral to, maybe, Talkspace or other concrete services that people may need to get that support?

Abbey Goodman:
Yeah, we take that responsibility seriously, and so in cases of imminent suicide. Suicidal thoughts, we watermark the post. Whisper is text and image and when the user says something that we notice is imminent suicide danger, we watermark it. That was also up on the screen. We refer them to the National Suicide Prevention Talk line.

Kaja Perina:
This is actually an interesting question because algorithmically and through deep learning, it’s now becoming increasingly … One is increasingly able to … Some of these communities, like Facebook, increasingly can patrol for suicidal ideation and trigger words. The programs actually are getting very sophisticated. The problem is you don’t want to risk false positives or false negatives. Meaning you don’t want to put up an alert when, in fact, the person was fine. There are legal liabilities with failing to flag. What Facebook has done, as many of you probably know, because I think they did this a couple of years ago, they have ways to crowd source it. People can flag their friends’ posts if they think there’s content of concern. You have, again, this sort of hive mind approach to it. It’ll be interesting to see how, as the ability to churn these posts and extract real information, real emotional content increases, how the platforms themselves choose to respond. Right now, Facebook very much puts it out onto the user, the user community. Do we have a question over here? I can’t see. There we go.

Audience Member 3:
Hi, my name’s Howard Crumpton. I’m a Talkspace therapist. I wanted to comment on the last piece that you were mentioning about, this is for the panel, about being able to tag a post that might seem like a suicidal threat. Of course it’s really hard to know who’s crying wolf. In a lot of intensive dialectical behavioral sessions, if someone says, “Oh, you better show up or else I’m going to kill myself.” The leading clinician might say, “That’s fine. You know, if you threaten to do that, we’ll just take you to the hospital where it’s not really all that nice, but we’ll keep you safe.” There is some sort of boundary there, there is a real life consequence to just crying wolf. I’m wondering, I guess, if anyone on the panel up there has thoughts about not necessarily providing a platform that is going to disseminate which is and which isn’t, because it seems very, very intensely therapeutic. But, if there are any thoughts about how you address users that might be abusing that.

Alexa Curtis:
Absolutely, and I think that’s why mental health should be discussed from such a young age in school because why should we enable an app like Periscope or Instagram or Twitter to share if a user is having these thoughts. Why should we enable kids to notify their parents and notify somebody at the school if their friend or their best friend or boyfriend is having these thoughts because you put it on an app like Instagram and what are they going to do? The kid’s going to get a notification that Instagram thinks there’s something wrong? Where I can go and scroll through Instagram and see seven posts from friends that I know who have posted pictures that are kind of scary for me and I know that there might be some issues with them. In that case I would go and contact and have, in the past, their friends or their parents or somebody at the school. I think it just comes from teaching that at a young age versus letting social media rule it.

Kaja Perina:
I mean I think there’s always going to be false alarms and false cries for help for various reasons. I can tell you on Psychology Today, we get a ton of posters and commentators who are clearly disturbed. Not necessarily self harming, but we’re one step away from the direct Psychology Today therapy directory, which is good for them, but I think that there’s a growing awareness of all of these apps and all of these platforms. That there is help out there. We’ve named many of them here today.

Jamison Monroe:
I think we’re on the precipice. I’m super excited, have been for many years, about the ability to provide therapy and education to people. As we talked about at the top of the show, to people who would not seek it in person, can not afford it, or just don’t live in a geographic area where they have access to it. I think that technology is going to bring us into a whole new era of mental health treatment and I’m really excited about it.

Kaja Perina:
We have one question over here.

Audience Member 4:
Thank you all so much for being here. I had a question to your point about … I love what Whisper’s doing, I’ve been a big fan for a long time, but just disclosing it, how it immediately diffuses the stress or the anxiety or the burden you might be feeling. However, we all know people who sometimes, if you’re matched with the wrong therapist, you say something, or the wrong friend, and they don’t know how to respond and it kind of dies. What do you think … You mentioned catharsis with a trained professional is ideal, but catharsis and you say something on Facebook or Instagram and it’s like, “Oh, today’s a tough day.” Nobody wants to like it, because it’s so miserable. How do we counteract for that effect, that consequences?

Kat Glick:
Well for me, with working with clients, I like to do a lot of process work with my Talkspace clients. If they express something to me or they communicate something and I give them a response, I will often it up and ask them, “How does it feel for you to read my response?” Or, “How does it feel for you to hear my feedback about this?” It opens up the door of communication for them to feel free and safe enough to talk about the talking that’s happening and to really express how they feel about the nature of our communication. It really helps to develop the relationship with that person. It helps to correct any misconceptions that I may have had in reading what they wrote. It helps them to feel more understood and that they … It helps them feel like I get it. I get them, I understand them. Not only do I get it, but I want to get it even more. It just creates that feeling of safety and security and openness.

Kaja Perina:
I think that we are out of time. Do we have? We have one minute. We have time for one super quick question.

Audience Member 5:
Hi. I feel that the technology mentioned in the previous panel could help a lot in the problems that were mentioned here by avoiding the judgmental reactions that someone would … Like, “Hey, are you okay? Can you explain what’s going on?” If it’s actually a robot doing that, then you might be more inclined to actually express what’s going on and maybe later on, a human can look into it, but is that something that is being researched by social platforms like Whisper or Facebook?

Abbey Goodman:
We have a hybrid moderation infrastructure, so we have round the clock human moderators looking at the text and images for context based clues. We also have deep learning from our technology, called the arbiter, which basically takes the learnings from the human decisions and applies them to the automated reviews. Together, we’re able to identify what users are talking about, but for the most part, Whispers are human interactions and so there’s thousands upon thousands being created. Every minute is unlikely, perhaps, that you might not get a response when you’re saying, “Today’s a tough day,” but there’s all of these other conversations happening simultaneously around some of these same topics where the conversation is very active and supportive. There’s different avenues for the help.

Kaja Perina:
I think that’s a great point. I think a challenge and this may have come up in a previous panel, but I think the challenge is going to be whether people will knowingly reach out to that robot. I think there’s no question that that could be an excellent, anonymous mediator. The question is how do you spin it for the human to make it palatable. There we go. Two panels wrapped up.