There’s ongoing research into how social media changes everything from our relationships to our opinions to our shopping habits. That all seems in play as these digital apps are designed to engage our intellects and emotions.
Now, there’s growing concern over how that same technology affects the psyche and, as a result, the body. A human being is a gestalt, a total sum forged from the physical, the psychological and the emotional — and a new app examines how social media touches on all of the above.
The Misü iOS app automatically tracks mood. Described by its designers as “a Fitbit for mental health,” the technology analyzes users’ facial expressions via a phone’s webcam and proprietary emotion detection AI capable of predicting and registering levels of happiness, sadness and anxiety. Funded by former Facebook executives and angel investors concerned with creating technology to protect emotional health, Misü records emotional states before and after the use of a social media app or website.
Strong anxiety is often linked to increased stress, exhaustion, insomnia and illness — resulting in very tangible negative effects in any sufferer’s daily life. So, the power of anxiety can have a very real impact on individuals, families and the overall community.
Early testing of Misü collected more than 1.2 million mental health indicators from nearly 100 social media users over three months . Reported results reveal that social media significantly increases anxiety in users at rates “substantially higher than what has been previously documented,” according to the app designers’ published report.
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The key finding was that people using social media while in vulnerable emotional states see their anxiety levels spike by 45% and sadness levels increase by 31%. To measure those increases, Misü monitored a 5-minute baseline before and after at least a 5 minute session while on social media. Misü’s proprietary tech [developed by observing users hundreds of thousands of times after they reported their mood], reports 85% accuracy in predicting levels of happiness, sadness and anxiety.
There was already ample research indicating social media apps have strong effects on brain chemistry and, therefore, user moods and behavior. For example, a 2018 Harvard University study explores a surges of the mood-altering neurotransmitter Dopamine during use of social media apps.
In 2017, Facebook shared research indicating that two-thirds of the app’s usage reduces people’s affective well-being. CEO Mark Zuckerberg claimed Facebook would take cuts in profits for the health of their community. However, no further information or research was shared.
Misü study spokesman Dr. Larry Rosen Psychology, Professor Emeritus at California State University, explains Misü’s capabilities will hopefully help users make better choices when using social media apps.
“Policy makers have been grappling with how to deal with the negative ramifications of social media,” Rosen says. “Misü will provide them with real data on how social media and other apps impact well-being both positively and negatively and inform better policy. Anyone can know when the technology they use every day may be harming their well-being, or improving their resilience.”