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For Challenge 6, we tested how truthfully people present themselves on social media and what affected it had on the mental health of users. We asked questions such as “What do you like most about Instagram?”, “What do you like least?” and asked them to rate themselves from 1 to 5 on prompts such as “How does Instagram make you feel?” and “How accurately do you represent your life on Instagram?” Overall, our answers were very mixed and the mode for our Likert Scale questions was often 3. Since these results were mostly inconclusive, we decided to create a product that illuminated the mental health effects of social media on each individual. Rather than making an anti-social media campaign, we tried to create a realistic solution that would alleviate the stress of social media. With our app, Shoulder, we hope to offer fun and easy mental health assistance to those who may or may not know how social affects them personally.

The Application

Shoulder is an app that functions primarily as a virtual buddy, and secondarily as a monitor of social media usage and mental health. We know that humans need other humans and we are in no way trying to replace human interaction or human support. On the other hand, we realize that fast-paced lifestyles make it difficult to reach out and get the help needed. With Shoulder, we offer a buddy who will check up on users, be there to listen whenever users need to vent, and help users make the changes they need to have their happiest life. Shoulder’s most desirable feature is the option to select one’s buddy, or Shoulder, from TV and movie characters. For instance, users can choose to have Leslie Knope check-in on them occasionally and offer comic relief during difficult times.

On the other end of the phone line or mobile chat feature there will be a computer generating tailored responses from show quotes and new material. Shoulder utilizes the attachment viewers feel to television show characters to simulate a comfortable environment that is safe to discuss personal feelings. The chosen character will “text” users spontaneously once a day or throughout the week to check up on them and offer an ear to vent. Users can customize how often a chat is prompted but should also feel free to reach out without hesitation. Responses will be in the tone and personality of the character and thus, as comical as he or she is on the TV show. Users may switch it up or have several Shoulders reach out simultaneously. Memes with the character or jokes in their humor will be sent to brighten the user’s day, but besides lighthearted responses, the character’s main function is to listen. Users can choose to speak on the phone or “text” to relay information. Highlights from the conversations will be transcribed in the app and logged in a journal that users may revisit at any time. Shoulder emphasizes the importance of speaking or writing down negative feelings in order to get them out of one’s system. Additionally, Shoulder will track social media usage across all platforms and chart out self-reported emotion ratings on top of hours spent per time length between ratings.

Design Considerations

The chat design and notifications mimic that of other chat apps in order to maintain confidentiality when users use the app in public. We hope to destigmatize mental health issues and emphasize that everyone has bad days and can use a shoulder. This app is meant to be fun to encourage anyone on the mental health spectrum to participate when Instagram inevitably displays something personally upsetting. Social media is such a fixture in our social environment that eliminating it is not a viable task. Instead of trying to change something that appeals to people for different reasons, Shoulder offers non-judgmental support to any and all who need it.