Using the power of social media to improve wellbeing

Across the world, there are over 2.3 billion active social network users. For millennials, social media is engrained into our being. We don’t really know (or remember) a life before the likes of Facebook and Twitter. We use social networks to stay in touch with our friends and family, and to share updates on what’s happening in own lives, whatever the time and wherever we are in the world. 

Today, we live in a society that is always connected. We’re able to converse with a brand in real-time if we have an issue or query, and ‘e-meet’ like-minded individuals to ourselves, with shared interests, passions, opinions and goals. We have instant access to an online, global community providing as-it-happens commentary on live events.

Yet social networks and the virtual world have become the subject of much debate. One issue in particular is creating a lot of conversation – the suggestion that social media can impact negatively on our mental health.

In 2015, reports from the National Citizen Service Trust revealed that 60 per cent of children aged between 12 and 17 suffer from loneliness. A further one in 20 admitted that they never spent time with friends out of school. Social media is carrying the blame, as more and more young people closet themselves away in the online world. 

These results 'reveal a concerning lack of social integration and level of loneliness amongst the next generation of young people, which could be harmful to the UK's economy and well-being in the future,' according to The Sunday Times. However, it’s not just young people who are vulnerable to the negative side effects of social media, which has been criticised for leading to feelings of isolation and depression amongst people of all ages and backgrounds.

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That is one of the reasons why what we’re doing at Javoo is important. With Javoo, we want to combat the negative stigma attached to the use of social media, harnessing the power of technology and an engaged social network to innovate and advance Alzheimer’s care. The global social network we have created has one clear aim: to improve the mental health of those living with and affected by Alzheimer’s disease, whether they’re a fighter, a family member, a friend or a carer.

My brother and I came up with the idea for Javoo whilst caring for our grandfather, who lived with the disease for over ten years. Globally, there are over 44 million people currently living with Alzheimer’s, which, according to the Alzheimer's Associatoin, impacts over 500 million lives. Yet despite the growing scale of the disease, we very quickly realised that technology had not yet caught up with managing the disease. We often struggled to get advice quickly, speak to people who had suffered a similar experience and find a one-stop resource to help us manage through such a difficult time.

Read more: How much does technology mess with your wellbeing?

Following our grandfather’s passing in 2013, we decided to take matters into our own hands, and built a global social network to provide people affected by Alzheimer’s with the strength they need when going through what we know to be a very dark and often lonely time.

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Using Javoo, people are able to create their own private social networks to share photos and videos, which can be used to trigger memories for someone living with Alzheimer’s disease. They can also engage with an open, friendly and supportive community to share their personal experiences and use the app’s chat feature to connect with and arrange to meet others who are also affected by the disease.

We brought our own personal experiences to the app, which is unique in offering its online community access to a 24/7 support service run by experienced advisors who have devoted their lives to Alzheimer’s care. Rather than encourage isolation, Javoo’s global social network aims to facilitate interaction and eliminate feelings of loneliness.

Read more: How is working long hours affecting our bodies?

Social networks are criticised for providing their communities with news feeds filled with political rants, tragic breaking news, and hundreds of posts about people struggling with illness or personal turmoil. We’ve turned this on its head, and developed a feature dedicated to sharing uplifting news about advances in Alzheimer’s care.

Undeterred by the body of negative sentiment towards social networks among the public, we believe online communities can be used positively, to further the fight for something much larger. With Javoo, we want to leverage the concept of the social network for good. We would love to see others follow in our direction and join us in the fight against Alzheimer’s.

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. Thumbnail from gettyimages

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