Studying Social Media Use to Quantify Emotions and Improve Mental Health

by Diana Drake

On our latest episode of Future of the Business World, we talk with Tom Hu, a high school senior from Ontario, Canada, who is all too familiar with the pressures of student achievement. He is starting a business called Nicely, a mental-health evaluation tool that analyzes an individual’s social media use and delivers data to professionals to inform and improve client evaluation, diagnosis and care. Tom discusses his thorough market research and business plan, which was strengthened when he met his co-founder, Ted, during last summer’s Leadership in the Business World program.

Be sure to click the arrow above to listen to our conversation. An edited version of the transcript appears below.

Wharton Global Youth Program: A note to our listeners. We will be talking about depression and suicide on today’s episode.

Hello and welcome to Future of the Business World, the podcast featuring high school students who are inspired by innovation. I’m Diana Drake with the Wharton Global Youth Program at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. Each month, I get to have a fascinating conversation with a teen entrepreneur who is creating a product or service that addresses a need in the market, while often also making our world a better place.

My guest today is Tom Hu, a high school student from Ontario, Canada, who studied at Wharton last summer in our Leadership in the Business World program. Tom is building a product that he hopes will transform the current telehealth market and improve the mental health of Generation Z.

Nicely co-founder, Tom Hu.

Tom, welcome to Future of the Business World.

Tom Hu: Hello, everyone. Hi, Diana. Thank you once again for this invitation and this wonderful opportunity to be here. My name is Tom Hu. I am currently a senior at Ridley College in Ontario, Canada. I love music. I love sports. And I’m looking forward to our conversation today.

Wharton Global Youth: Tell us about your platform, which is called Nicely. When did you begin developing it and why?

Tom: Nicely is a real-time negative mood indicator based on someone’s social media results. So, I started developing Nicely in the summer of 2021 through a hackathon back in China. The story with Nicely really began in my freshman year, when a good friend of mine attempted suicide. Despite his stellar academic records and vibrant social life, he was troubled by negative emotions and only expressed those through self-deprecating jokes on social media. And so, his calls for help went unanswered. After the attempt, I went to offer him support and sought to understand how his situation developed. This is when I realized how social media influenced his circumstances, and I started to question the role of technology in affecting the mental state of young adults.

That is the point where this idea of Nicely started in my mind. I wanted to build a product that could help Gen Z to regulate and monitor their social media usage. I see social media as a double-edged sword, where one side can help us promote ourselves and help us see a broader perspective of the world. However, on the other side, it can also promote negative emotions.

Wharton Global Youth: I’m very sorry that your friend went through that hard experience. But it sounds like it inspired some interesting problem solving on your end. And I want to get into that a little bit more. Can you talk about how the platform works? You call it a mental-health evaluation tool that delivers in-depth analysis of an individual’s social media and daily experiences. What does that mean, exactly? And where do emotions fit into all of that?

Tom: How I see emotions in the mental-health space is that emotion is something that cannot be quantified over time. It is subjective to someone, and can vary based on the context, the space, the current experiences you’re going through and the cultural perspective and personal perspective that you have. The most powerful point about Nicely is that we can quantify emotion in a way through data analytics and quantify them in a number.

So, how does our platform work? Our platform is connected to the API, or the application programming interface of major social media platforms — in this case we use Twitter. After our clients have registered, our program will then go on to the API of Twitter and fetch all public information about that client. And so, this will include their public posts, public comments, likes, shares, retweets, etc. After all this information is fetched, we then fed them through our machine learning model. Well, to be more specific, a sentimental analysis model that characterizes each post on a scale of positive to negative. After that, we’ll then map out all the results on a plane. In the end, what our clients will get is a detailed graph about their emotional fluctuation during the day. And what we hope to achieve with this technology is that we hope to use the graph and identify signs of crisis in someone’s life. So, this really goes back to the definition of depression and mental crises and how we diagnose depression. For example, depression is a long-time accumulation of negative emotions. So through the graph, we hope to find early signs of the accumulation of negative emotions, and send them to health professionals so they can help the patient or client in advanced time.

Wharton Global Youth: Is this data used both by professionals as well as by say, a student who wants to understand their social media use?

Tom: Currently, our product is [directed] toward professionals. A client will agree to a professional using data for their analysis. Let’s say I’m a professional. I’ll [say], ‘Okay, here’s a new advanced product named Nicely. Do you wish to let us analyze your data, which is completely private?’ (I won’t be leaking this information to anyone). [The professional asks], ‘Do you allow me to analyze such data in the exchange for better treatment?’ That is really the pitch line that we have or the thinking process that we have here.

Again, based on a mutual agreement between the professional and the client, then the professional will start using the data which the client is generating day by day, and trying to use that data to decipher behavioral characteristics and emotional traits about that individual person to better understand how their emotions work. How does this person work emotionally? What do they like? What do they dislike? Based on those data, they can then give suggestions that are more personalized and individualized.

“The time at LBW taught me to be fearless with my entrepreneurial process, reaching out to anyone I can get to receive that piece of criticism that’s valuable for an early-age startup.”

Wharton Global Youth: Fascinating. It’s such a combination of data-driven and data-informed. You know, you think of mental health as being such an emotional crisis, but you’re really using the data to solve the problem. That’s a unique approach. I want to talk to you about Leadership in the Business World, which is the program that you attended last summer at Wharton. How did it help your entrepreneurial journey?

Tom: Absolutely. I’ll definitely say that my entrepreneurial past before the LBW program was very steady. However, when it comes to the LBW program, it just exponentially grows. This goes back to my first day. Just for some context: I actually met my co-founder Ted in the LBW program in which we were roommates. It was the first night in LBW. And it’s just me and Ted lying in our dorm room. And I didn’t know anything about him. I was trying to do a conversation starter. I was like, ‘So Ted, what do you like?’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, I’m into history. I’m into philosophy. I’m also into business.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, business, I’m into it, too. I actually have a current startup name Nicely.’ And then we got into details about it. And Ted started showing me all these visions that he had about this business. I was like, ‘Wow, Ted, your ideas are amazing! In the future, do you mind if we go more in depth in our discussion, or even think about joining our team?’ And that really is how I recruited my co-founder, one of the most fascinating stories I love to tell.

But other than finding more members [for my] team in LBW, the overall perspectives and constructive criticisms that I have received from my peers are great. [It’s great] to see how a group of passionate entrepreneurs and business students have come together with varying perspective, ideas, and a passion for entrepreneurship. So, during my time on campus, I loved to pitch my idea to various different individuals, whether they were my peers, whether they were in a different program, whether they were a professor or a guest speaker. The time at LBW taught me to be fearless with my entrepreneurial process, reaching out to anyone I can get to receive that piece of criticism that’s valuable for an early-age startup.

Wharton Global Youth: Wow! Sounds like it was a wonderful experience for you. So, mental health can be a real taboo subject. And yet society, especially high school students, have really been struggling emotionally and psychologically. You mentioned your friend, I hope he’s doing better. Is he? Good. We’ve got social media, as you said, the pandemic, pressures of school and achievement, and so much more. What have you learned about the mental health of your peers and really even yourself through the process of creating your startup? And more importantly, what should the rest of the world understand?

Tom: As a high school student, I know that the struggle that we have been currently experiencing is real. Whether it is university applications, your high school curriculum, AP program, IB program, in Ontario, we have the OSSD program — the academic pressures and the co-curricular demand for students in the current age is unimaginable. So, because we have such a heavy load on high school students, social media becomes one of our best outlets to express such emotions. And such is the reason why I wanted to start a venture in the area [to begin with]. As I’ve navigated through the different professionals and different social media sources, and I’ve done my marketing research, what I have found is that we as the younger generation need to stand up for ourselves to talk about our own experiences. As someone who is young, and as someone who is from the generation, our advantage is not the professional understanding over mental health or the professional understanding over psychology that we have. It is moreso the understanding of our own experiences as a part of this generation Z. Think about the ways that we can improve our own well-being and how we can support our peers.

Wharton Global Youth: I think what I hear you saying, beyond the data, which is something that you are studying and analyzing, is that it’s about conversation, community, and communication, right? You are hoping to get your peers talking more about these things that they’re struggling with, so that they can ideally move beyond them. And of course, Nicely, will help with that, because it’s got the analysis piece, but it sounds like staying quiet is not an option.

Tom: And in terms of what should the rest of the world know? Be more supportive toward young adults.

Wharton Global Youth: Do you feel social media is to blame for the mental health issues that your peers are facing?

Tom: Wow, that’s a great question. It is very stereotypical that social media is a place of comparison where our peers compare ourselves to the ones around us, the beauty comparison, or just there’s a lot of competing comparisons going on on social media. But me personally — not addressing it from a Nicely perspective — I’ll say that social media can be a place for motivation and positivity. For example, for myself, I can personalize my social media accounts and my social media follows so that it becomes a source of motivation during some of my most dark ages, or some of my most nervous, anxious times.

And when I’m addressing it in a Nicely perspective, I’ll say that social media is an outlet for Gen Z. It is an outlet for the academic pressure, it is an outlet for their personal lives, and it’s a place where Generation Z loves to talk about and relieve their stress and their personal load in this time that is so stressed and pressured.

And when I’m talking about social media in a professional spectrum, social media has been a platform where it’s seen as having a competing relationship with professionals. Say I’m a client, I’m a young Gen Z and going to a professional. I might not be telling the truth. I might be telling biased information and might be telling inaccurate information. However, in the meantime, we’re being very honest on our social media, whether we are talking to our friend or posting about our day. Some have the habit of journaling their day on their social media. It might just be a random sentence. But really, what you post on social media has a high representation of yourself, your true self, of who you are. That is the point where we see, okay, Nicely, we can use this as something that fuses and powers our model. We’re using this source of information to benefit and improve the accuracy of diagnosis.

Wharton Global Youth: Related to that, do you feel as though Nicely is already making a difference in the world? And have you met or interacted with any of your users? Can you kind of walk us through that experience?

Tom: Currently, Nicely is still at a very early stage of development, so we have not started any clinical trials. But we hope that we will start them in the near future. Just based on our previous marketing research and talking to psychology professionals, professors, or professionals in general, I would say that the overall outlook on Nicely is very positive. People think that it’s a very innovative process that can help propel the understanding of patients.

During the initiation of Nicely, we identified three main problems that we see with the current methodology, or where the diagnosing mechanism is lacking. So first of all is the blind spot: how decisions of care provision are made without crucial data. Second of all is narrow assessment: How grey zones elapse between [counseling] sessions with minimal monitoring. And third of all, is limited follow up: there are only a few ways to identify and help prevent crisis in real time. So really, we saw that there’s a lack of the use of data. And we see that this data is crucial in the diagnosing process. Just by seeing someone’s social media profile, it has a lot to unpack.

This is an example scenario. Let’s say I am a high school senior who plays on a basketball team and I constantly tweet about my basketball journey throughout my life. And one day I started tweeting: Oh, today it was the playoff with my basketball [team]. I am so frustrated with myself. I tried to go onto the court, I tried dribbling around, I tried shooting around. However, for some reason, it just wasn’t working out. And after that, I got very upset about myself. I feel very frustrated, and my coach put me on the bench for the entirety of the game. Going back home, I still feel very frustrated. I wanted to play good for my team. However, for some reason, that particular day was just not my day. So that would be a sort of a raw content that our program was picking up. However, after analysis, and let’s say after this content is being sent to a professional, what they can decipher from this content is that this person really places their team at a very high priority. And he really places his personal performance over his personal well-being. Such information can be beneficial in helping the professional to understand their client on a personal level.

Wharton Global Youth: You are a for-profit business, which means you fit squarely into the demographic of aspiring to make a profit and an impact. How do you balance those objectives?

Tom: As someone who is a young entrepreneur, I definitely prioritize the impact over profit. However, I do think profit is still necessary in the process. I think profit can give us a very stable structure and help us to improve over time. I was having this debate between a nonprofit and for-profit during the initiation of Nicely, and I chose for-profit in the end. However, I do really love nonprofits. But really, the reason being is the cost associated with this model. The use of AI in the industry is very premature. And a lot of investments rather as clinical trials or academic studies need to be solid to provide a structure for Nicely in order for it to actually launch. So again, being a for-profit enables us to reinvest in ourselves to make a bigger impact in society.

Wharton Global Youth: I heard you mention the next three to four years. You’re a senior, what’s next for you?

Tom: So currently I just finished the college-application process. For college, I’m definitely going to the U.S. And in terms of developing Nicely, we have three directions currently. First of all, is integrating Nicely into the current methodologies that professionals are using; starting to use Nicely in clinical scenarios and starting to see Nicely really flourish in the current market. Second of all, modify our current platform and promote individual use of Nicely. So for some audiences that might not be so confident or that might not want to share the data with someone else, we also are looking to integrate it in a form so individuals can use it to monitor their own emotional well-being. So this is for a more sensitive audience group. And really, we’re trying to reach as big of an audience group as we can. And finally, what we’re looking toward is to use our current model and current approach to promote psychological studies and promote our understanding of our emotional well-being. [This involves] finding out the key words or key activities that might lead to a crisis, and overall just promote our understanding as a whole.

Wharton Global Youth: All right, let’s wrap up with our lightning round. Try to answer these questions as quickly as you can. You spent time studying in Leadership in the Business World, as we discussed. How do you define leadership in a sentence or two?

Tom: I’ll define leadership as gathering a group of like-minded peers working on one initiative that can impact the world.

Wharton Global Youth: Something about you that would surprise us?

Tom: I am a jazz musician. I love classical music and jazz, and I play over four instruments.

Wharton Global Youth: A company where you would like to go behind the scenes to see how it operates?

Tom: I’ll say SpaceX.

Wharton Global Youth: You’re starting your own business-themed talk show. Who is your first guest and why?

Tom: I’ll definitely say Steve Jobs, but mainly on disruptive technology and how really creating something out of the air and how can he really, again, create something and promote something that does not exist in our world.

Wharton Global Youth: Thank you so much for joining us on Future of the Business World.

Tom: Well, thank you so much, Diana. It is a pleasure and honor to be here. Thank you once again for this amazing opportunity.

Wharton Global Youth: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the US is 1-800-273-8255.

Conversation Starters

Tom Hu says that teenagers are often very honest on their social media platforms. Do you agree with this? Do you see value in collecting social media data to inform mental-health diagnoses and treatment?

Tom wants the world to know that high school students face lots of pressures and need more support. What would you like the world to understand about life’s demands and how they affect mental health?

Have you applied innovative thinking to the struggles that many teens are facing? Share your ideas and your story in the comment section of this transcript.

21 comments on “Studying Social Media Use to Quantify Emotions and Improve Mental Health

  1. I think using social media to quantify emotions and improve mental health is a great idea. Some people never say a word in real life, because no one will know them, so they will post their thoughts on the Internet. If nicely can also detect private posts, it will make many patients aware of their psychological problems so that they can start treating it earlier. Some people are unaware of their psychological problems because they are not serious, but by the time they are fully aware it is too late, and the psychological problems are too serious to be very difficult to heal. I have a friend who usually looks like a normal person, but she was detected to have a serious psychological problem. People around her were very worried but they didn’t know what to do. She once told me that she wanted to commit suicide after the age of 30. We comforted her and told her that the world is beautiful, but she was still disturbed by negative emotions just like Tom’s friend in the article. If nicely can detect her psychological problems before they become like this maybe it won’t become like this. So I think using social media to quantify emotions and improve mental health is a very good idea, I hope it can be popularized faster, I think Nicely can occupy a place in the market in the future

    • Hello Yuxin! I found it very interesting to read your comment on “Studying Social Media Use to Quantify Emotions and Improve Mental Health”, and I wanted to join the conversation to discuss how to make Nicely accessible to the general public and the importance of prioritizing impact over profit.

      When I was reviewing your comment on “Studying Social Media Use to Quantify Emotions and Improve Mental Health”, I really appreciated how you indicated the fact that mental wellness and psychological problems have become omnipresent in the world we are living in today. The story of how your friend was having a mental breakdown and convinced that she had the intention to commit suicide after the age of 30 highlights the significance of mental health and the need for us to restrain our negative thoughts. Nicely, a mental health evaluation tool founded by Tom Hu, could be a good method to address the issue of mental health problems. However, in the meantime, I could also identify some potential flaws in the design.

      One significant problem with Nicely is that some people, such as low-income families, blue-collar workers, and college students with high student loan debt, may not be able to afford the platform’s usage fees. Tom mentioned that “profit is still necessary in the process”, and added that “profit can give us a very stable structure and help us to improve over time.” It is reasonable for him to consider the long-term goals of what the organization is aiming to achieve and whether it is possible for the startup company to survive in the market in the long run if the organization alters to a non-profit organization. However, the for-profit concept can also be flawed when acknowledging the fact that low-income individuals could make up a large proportion of the consumers in the market of mental health services. According to National Institutes of Health, “People living in socially underprivileged and poor city areas suffer more often from mental health conditions like depression, anxiety and psychosis than persons living in high-income neighborhoods (22–24).” Thus, this demonstrates that Nicely might not be available to many impoverished individuals who have severe mental health problems and it fails to prioritize impact over profit.

      Another flaw of Nicely I could identify is that the design could potentially worsen the clients’ emotional and psychological conditions by showing them their emotional fluctuations throughout the day. If an individual reviews the information about their mental health is somewhat negative and unfavourable, such as that they have been diagnosed with depression or exhibit symptoms of it, it may worsen their feelings and perhaps push them towards suicide.

      One suggestion from me in order to help Nicely to prioritize impact over profit is to reach out to other non-profit organizations for partnerships and the government requesting subsidies. According to and Investopedia, almost all non-profit organizations are exempt from paying taxes and frequently receive funding and support from the federal government. By concentrating on assisting the people rather than the organization itself, I believe that this could help Nicely reach its long-term purpose more successfully. Partnerships with other nonprofits could help Nicely establish a better image and perhaps inspire the public to donate to those in need and raise awareness of the significance of mental health.


  2. I originally clicked on this podcast to look into because I myself have struggled with lots of mental health issues in the past and I’m also a frequent user of social media. Right away, the opening really touched me when Tom mentioned one of his friends attempting suicide. I lost one of my closest friends to suicide in 2021 and it’s been one of the hardest experiences for me. The feeling of sitting there watching someone who was so close to you just days before slip out of your hands forever is a feeling nobody can forget. I also promised myself from that day on that I would live for her. I hold on to the little things I see that remind me of her so that on the days where her death hits the hardest, I still have a piece of her with me. But it’s not her death that affected me but more about the way she lived and that’s how I found myself at this podcast. She spent a large amount of time on the internet which is how we communicated since she lived in a different country. For that reason, I am thankful that the internet brought us together. But at times I find myself hating the internet as well because it is the little electronic device she holds in her hands that killed her. When Nicely was brought up in the podcast, I was immediately fond of the idea. I never want another teenage girl to spend hours each day of their youth staring meaninglessly at a screen, watching negative comments about her body, the way she talks, the things she likes, float into her mind. In fact, I don’t want to see that happen to anybody. At certain nights I lie awake in bed thinking about my friend…maybe if I had known she had depression sooner, maybe if she reached out for help faster, maybe, maybe, maybe. The unknown lingers in my mind. Nicely’s idea about scanning social media platforms such as Twitter for negative emotions in order to perform an earlier diagnosis of depression is a great idea. It is better to find out a problem in its early stages of development so help can be easier. In addition to all that Nicely is providing, I think there should be a filtered and private online community dedicated to those struggling. That would be especially beneficial for those who are in a position where they are unable to ask their parents or a therapist for help. Another thing that could be added is a weekly statistics profile for each person who chooses to use Nicely where their emotions throughout the week can be documented and analyzed for themselves to see. Depending on that, they can choose to seek help or notice that they might need to take a break from social media to benefit their health. Either way, Nicely seems like a great initiative not only in improving mental health but also finding your own community and forming understanding within other people who struggle like you do.

  3. Teenagers are frequently thought to be more truthful on social media platforms. Teenagers can freely express themselves and maintain privacy on social media, enabling them to talk about their feelings, opinions, and experiences. It’s vital to recognize that people’s levels of honesty can vary widely, and not all teenagers may express themselves truthfully on social media. The whole idea of Nicely is very smart but it must be done carefully. Social media data collection can be useful in helping to diagnose and treat mental health conditions. Insights about people’s mental health may be gained from analyzing social media data; these insights may include patterns, indications of discomfort, or early signals of mental health problems which would be massive in today’s world.

  4. Nicely, developed as a real-time negative mode indicator is indeed a good idea. It is developed as a tool to assess the mental health of a person across all age groups based on their social media posts. It is rightly described as double-aged swords which can not only help a person overcome their negative thoughts and feelings but also bring him out of it. It is generally believed that social media builds tremendous amounts of pressure on people due to various reasons like professional competition and attempts to excel in their respective fields. Students in particular are constantly under pressure trying to outdo their peers. Social media is a platform where they give vent to their emotions, thoughts and ideas. we ourselves may never read between the lines in such posts and may never know what is going on in the mind of the person who wrote this. This is where Nicely has stepped in to assess the situation, read the mind of the writer and offer help in restoring mental health. Nicely is definitely an innovative idea that fulfils the need of the hour.

  5. Social media is just an outside outlet that many people use in general and depending on how it is being used it may affect the person either positively or negatively. Many teenagers are often very open on social media. I think the main reason for that is because they feel that in the vast world of the internet, it is unlikely that anyone they personally know will see it. I know that not only depression but just opinions in general are freely said and spread online because people don’t really process the actual effect of spreading anything online. I feel that collecting social media information and data can help data analytics or trained authorities to understand the person better. As I know personally that a lot of people are more online and kind of hiding behind a screen. As a high school student myself, I know a lot of people that have their own mental problems that aren’t always shown. However, I also know that a lot of these people will be a little more open about it online than in person. This includes what they like on social media, notes, and celebrities they follow. The problems that many high school students face are a wide range from bullying to home issues and I am so happy to see that organizations and people are working to bring these problems to awareness because many people have a false understanding that teenagers are rebellious and many just a trouble maker. In reality, we teenagers probably have a lot of depth in our personalities and past that what we portray to the average everyday person is only a very small part of us. Often I have thought of innovative solutions for the many struggles that teens are facing however, some of the stuff really just lie in the system, the people, and the environment. I think every school should have a group that is just there for mental health, not just adults or teachers, but students. However, this group must be watched because I don’t want it to become an easy credit or club. I want this club to be created with the idea of giving these teenagers a safe space with their own peers, just a space that allows us teenagers to relax, make friends, and maybe study in a comfortable space.

  6. It’s odd, but knowing that you have an app dedicated to you because of that one near-suicide, must be a complicated feeling. I hope that Tom’s friend got the message that people are looking out for him – because Tom definitely was. It takes a great deal of love and effort for a high school senior to make a project of this level.

    With his ambitions and plans for Nicely, Tom really rose beyond your ‘average senior’. In fact, when I was first reading the article, I really thought that he was a college student and that Nicely was out in the market! Luckily, a reread of this article made me realize the truth.
    But nevertheless, Tom is just as ambitious as he is correct. I currently attend a highschool in New York, if I go a day without seeing someone breaking down emotionally, something is wrong. The remarkable thing is, is how happy everyone seems despite this. Our academical curriculum is famous for it’s rigor. Why is everyone smiling? Because I don’t have social media on my own, I would sometimes peer (with permission, of course!) at my friend’s instagram or facebook feed out of curosity. I see people I know: truly happy people, not so happy people, and people I know with a mental condition, all acting happy.

    Tomas is right in that using social media has been an integral part of being Gen Z, although I’m not really involved in the trend myself. Through highschool, I learned many things about our culture. It’s everywhere, from our music, to pictures online, and even that embarrassing facebook post that my friends forwards occasionally. So it all makes sense to me! If the culture is mostly online, it makes sense for you to be mostly online. Figuring your identity online. Converting real-life experiences into online experiences.

    I referred this article to a friend. Although Nearly is not available to the public just yet – it haven’t even got past it’s clinical testing period ! – he was amazed by Tom’s plans to convert something perceivably subjective: social media feeds, (which could be a sentence) and compile it as quantifiable data via. machines. I was a bit skeptical of the process at first (can machines think for themselves?), but then I realized that Tom probably would be like: “Alright so, machine, you’re gonna have to recgonize some key words”. In that case, I still find it weird that machines could tell the difference between self-deprecating jokes and attempts at fitting in/making others laugh. Maybe my doubts are wrong! In that case, I’d like to know Tom’s plans more specifically.

    Like what the article said, Tom clearly has potential, and I’m confident that his app would go very far. Though, I do wonder what might go wrong. If this app allowed the public to monitor their own social media feeds, they would presumably have a clear indicator of what their overall mental health. Yet, I can say that we could expect both positive and negative effects from it’s release. For instance, while more patients will go to therapists, chances are, those who don’t — either having too little time, knowing too little about theraphy, are too worried about the cost, are too worried about external judgment, or simply do not want to go ___ have to live knowing that they have poor mental health. I personally wouldn’t want to be in that situation, so I’m hoping that Tom will encourage the therapy-seeking process as well!

    I’m thinking quick 5-minute mental health booster exercises or maybe a redirection feature (based on location features). It would also be really cool if Tom partners with online therapy services. I feel like what Nearly can do is truly limitless. It can definitely revolutionize mental health therapy!

  7. Prior to reading this article/listening to this podcast, I would have described social media as a superficial genre of entertainment and as a convenient way to stay updated on our friends’ and favorite celebrities’ lives. Avid users of social media are on Tik Tok, Instagram, Twitter and other platforms on a daily basis that feed our interactions through an algorithm to curate personalized feeds for entertainment; Nicely feels like a revelation with the goal of using AI to assess user interactions for the more positive impact of analyzing our mood and general mental wellness.

    As someone who often doesn’t share negative emotions with close friends or family for fear of burdening them, I relate to Tom’s story about his friend in that when I am upset and need an outlet, I often repost self-deprecating jokes on my Instagram private story or repost a Reel or Tik Tok of someone in a similar situation making fun of themselves in a lighthearted way. While I do not feel as though my reposting of dark humor content is an attempt to cry for help, I am aware that many others use social media as a form of reaching out if they do not know how to otherwise. In the past, one of my closest friends had an extended period of time where they posted dark humor and self-deprecating content on their Instagram stories and I hadn’t thought anything of it, but they eventually ended up going in for in-patient treatment for their mental health struggles. Despite our close relationship and all of the time we spent together during their worst times, I had never realized how much pain they were in every day and neither had anyone else until it became severe enough to the point of needing treatment.

    The dichotomy between my story and my friend’s story highlights a complexity that would be useful for Nicely to address. Tom explains how Nicely quantifies emotion in a number, but I’m curious to see how he would filter through the sarcasm, dark humor, trolling, and other potentially disingenuous posts many users publish online. Would it be possible for Nicely to analyze and account for tone, context, or references from pop culture when producing a number? While both my friend and I posted similarly on our profiles to cope with our hardships, the states of our mental wellbeing greatly differed; this makes me wonder how accurate a number scale would be for each unique individual with different senses of humor or emotional stability.

    Gen Z’s humor has evolved to use a unique sense of absurdity and crudeness, resulting in phrases that seem concerning if one is not in tune with this generation’s attitudes towards issues or used to perusing the comments section. For example, under a vast majority of videos of couples sharing cute moments together, the comment section will be flooded with people saying things like “sleeping on a highway tonight” or “taking a bath with my toaster,” seemingly implying that they want to die when in reality, it is a display of lighthearted jealousy for the couple. If taken out of a digital cultural context, these comments could be flagged as having an intent to self-harm. With this in consideration, the feature of finding key words or phrases, as mentioned by Tom Hu, will be a useful addition to the program. Nicely could potentially assess warning signs of mental health struggles that fellow peers or family members may be unaware of – although diagnosing should be done by a professional after consulting with a patient – and prevent further decline of mental health or dangerous situations.

    Ultimately, Nicely sounds like an amazing feature and with the rise of awareness for mental health in recent years, I am confident in its ability to help social media users as AI and the program develops.

    • Heejae, as I was reading through all the comments written below the article, I couldn’t help but notice how relatable yours was, mentioning our generation’s type of humor and sarcasm created on social media platforms. What really caught my attention from your comment was the skepticism toward how AI would be able to analyze such jokes. As controversies regarding AI usage are a hot topic today, your comment raises questions about the Nicely Program. As a fellow member of your generation, and as an active social media user, I definitely see the point you have stated in your comment. Looking at all these aspects, I would like to share my opinion on this issue as well and set up a possible solution to solve certain flaws of this new program.

      In your comment, you mention your concerns about how the Nicely Program would not be able to fully evaluate the context/tone of Gen Z posts or comments on social media, and I definitely agree with you on that one. The Nicely Program utilizes AI to catch certain words or phrases on feeds or in the comment sections to prevent them from affecting users of the social media platform. However, as a fellow Gen Z member who is always on the phone scrolling through TikTok and Instagram, I can tell that most of the commenters and creators are just being sarcastic. Though they consist of self-deprecating jokes and depressing words, they are meant to bring about small giggles and a smile to whoever comes across them. On the other hand, AI is not able to detect and understand sarcasm and human emotions. Therefore, whatever negative phrase it finds, it will immediately categorize it as a bad influence without realizing that those are the things that actually make us laugh.

      It is ironic, though, that despite the fact that teenage depression and suicide rates have gone up since the rise of technology and social media, Tom is using the main cause of such emotional problems to prevent and stop these issues from happening among the young generations. According to Time, between the years 2009 and 2017, rates of depression among teenagers ages 14 to 17 increased by more than 60%. The year 2009 is just a year or two after the first iPhone came out, and the following year was when Instagram first released its platform. As everyone, especially the younger generations, is always stuck on their phones, texting and scrolling, they are spending more time connecting with each other online rather than in person, leaving them to feel isolated and lonely. With the rise of social media usage increasing immensely every year, teenage depression and suicide rates are only going to increase as well. Therefore, it is because of social media that the young generations are experiencing such problems, and yet Tom is essentially using the cause of the problem to solve the problem. To fix this, we need to eliminate the main source of all these social issues: social media platforms.

      When I say that we need to get rid of social media, I don’t mean to completely take away Instagram and TikTok and delete them from our lives. What I mean is that we should restrict their usage for certain age groups. Nowadays, we often see 10-year-old girls wearing heavy makeup, crop tops, and shorts in the mall, talking about parties, boys, and vaping. Surely their parents wouldn’t have taught them such things; the kids picked it up from social media. However, these topics are not appropriate for young children and will increasingly have a negative influence on them, potentially ruining their bright futures. The age limit for TikTok and Instagram is supposedly 12 or older, but let’s be realistic, there are many users who are younger than 12. However, companies want and need as many users as possible to profit and gain money from promotions and popularity, so they often ignore the ages of their users. Due to this kind of ignorance, social media usage among teens and younger children is becoming normalized, leading to increasing insecurities, depression, and suicide rates. To make companies start caring about these issues, we need the government to take action. By implementing government legislation targeting certain corporations regarding these concerns, companies will be more cautious and strict about age limits to avoid paying fines or getting into trouble with the government. To make this work, we need collective action and everyone’s participation. Many parents out there are genuinely concerned about their children’s safety and happiness, so putting effort into making this happen will be another step toward a brighter future for everyone.

      We, as part of the Gen Z community, understand how the world of social media works. Although most of the content is intended to entertain people, the growing rate of its usage is isolating others from their friends and families, and it is affecting teenagers’ mental health more and more over time. The Nicely Program is a great start to prevent such issues, but its focus on AI usage to cut out certain content is questionable. I believe that creating government legislation towards corporations to limit the age of social media usage and utilizing the Nicely Program would help decrease depression and suicide rates among teenagers drastically in the near future. The Nicely Program is definitely a smart solution to help improve our generation’s poor mental health issues; thanks to your comment, it has really got me thinking deeply about this topic and coming up with a possible solution!

    • Heejae, I agree with your sentiment that Nicely’s AI, while having good intentions, could falsely interpret aspects of Generation Z’s humor as mentally unwell behavior. I myself am no stranger to witnessing the extremes of Generation Z’s jokes on social media posts (“taking a bath with my toaster” is a classic, as weird as that is to write).

      I think Generation Z’s humor is to this level of extremity to purposely provide a shock value. I watched a TED Talk by Peter McGraw recently about humor, and he talked about how the key to a good joke is whether or not it expresses ‘benign violation.’ I know, breaking down a joke makes the joke not funny anymore, but his ethos — that a joke has to have a balance of disturbing shock value that still maintains a semblance of dignity and tameness — does have some merit to it. Your comment about Generation Z’s humor reminded me of this video because on the surface, it seems to be simply a ‘violation’ — simply something meant to shock the listener. By McGraw’s standards (and probably the standards of many, many other adults), Generation Z’s humor technically isn’t humor.

      There seems to be a variety of reasons why Generation Z’s humor is so uniquely absurd. Our generation has the largest proportion of Internet access throughout one’s lifetime and, coupled with the unusually large amount of free time as a result of the pandemic, became quickly bored and used to oversaturated information on the Internet. Humor, to Generation Z, has no setup. It delivers straight to the punchline — or else we’ll get bored and stop paying attention halfway through. Who needs multiple-minute comedy sketch acts when sayings such as “taking a bath with my toaster” or “jumping off a bridge right now” are so much more straight to the point?

      You’re right — with how fast-paced and constantly-changing Generation Z culture and slang is, it’s going to be extremely hard for AI such as Nicely to comprehend the comments of Generation Z users currently. But I don’t think this will always be the case. Humor can only get so perverse and straight to the point — eventually, I think our generation’s humor will get so fast-paced to the point where slower, more subtle humor that more accurately represents McGraw’s idea of humor as a ‘benign violation’ will start to regain its footing. This isn’t an uncommon phenomenon — for example, our obsession with minimalism in the 2010s has resulted in rampant maximalism during the start of the pandemic.

      Trend cycles are constantly growing and changing, and I wonder what the state of Generation Z humor will be like in the coming years. Perhaps by the time Nicely’s code is polished and released to the public, your proposed problem of the AI potentially misflagging comments as dangerous won’t be an issue anymore.

  8. Nicely is definitely a two sided coin. I know many students resort to social media as an outlet or as a way to “play pretend.” However, I also know that social media can severely harm the mental health of students and that this problem has become an epidemic. Collecting information to track mental health is a smart idea, but would be hard to do quantitatively and would need to account for a myriad of bias. I think it’s really interesting how Tom plans to use machines to compile the data. It brings about new questions on AI and its purpose and begs questions about its use in society and if AI could ever replace humans. I also think that many adolescents using social media don’t admit/recognize its harms, and that, therefore, Nicely has potential to lessen the stigma around mental health and incentivize kids to see therapists! Overall, this is a fantastic idea but needs to be carried out carefully and without a huge third-party monopoly.

  9. Tom’s Nicely business venture is incredibly inspiring and innovative! The way it quantifies emotions by analyzing social media activities challenges the prevailing notions about these platforms. Social media has long been criticized for fostering comparisons, feelings of isolation, and anxiety, as individuals portray seemingly flawless lives online.
    According to Christine Stabler, studies conducted by The Child Mind Institute and The National Center for Health Research have concluded that frequent social media use is correlated with high levels of depression. Despite these persistent issues, people are increasingly reliant on social media. This is where Nicely comes in, reversing the negative impacts and enhancing mental health evaluation, diagnosis, and care.
    Tom’s story deeply resonates with me because I had a similar experience with him since I once discovered that one of my most supportive and optimistic friends was not as joyful as she seemed. During a casual truth or dare game, she revealed that she had cried just the day before and was constantly living under pressure, unwilling to let others down. Reflecting on the many instances where she kept a growth mindset to encourage herself and used her positive energy to uplift me and others, I was taken aback by this revelation: even the sunniest person could experience moments of sadness, and it is crucial for us to tackle it together.
    Through a heartfelt conversation later on, I learned that she was actually under immense pressure, including her perfectionism in all aspects of life and her parents’ high expectations. I retrospectively analyzed our past interactions, searching for any hints of her struggles, but they remained hidden. As a last resort, I turned to social media and scrolled through our chat histories and her online activities in the past few months. Surprisingly, I discovered subtle moments that offered a glimpse beneath the surface of her cheerful facade. For example, her avoidance of the topic when I asked her to hang out with a certain friend revealed that she might be facing certain social pressures. Furthermore, her gradual decrease in responsiveness in messaging and posting frequency suggested that she was working under pressure. Understanding her academic, social, and parental pressures enabled me to support her more effectively. By listening to her stories, providing encouragement, and working together to solve some social and academic problems that troubled her, I felt closer to her than we ever were before. I also discovered that the weight on her shoulders began to lift while our relationship strengthened.
    This experience made me realize the importance of social media as a tool for improving mental health. My friend is not the only one who masks her struggles behind a positive social image. Through research, I came across the concept of “smiling depression,” a form of depression in which people appear to be happy but suffer internally. For these individuals who do not openly disclose their vulnerabilities in face-to-face interactions, their traceable online footprints can provide valuable insights into their true mental states. It is remarkable that Tom and his app can assist those who shed light on others while still navigating their own challenges. Therefore, I strongly believe that Nicely has a bright future with unlimited potential.

    • Hi Courtney. I can only imagine how much pain and sadness you must have experienced. You really put Tom’s initiatives of Nicely into perspective. I totally agree and promote the importance of looking beyond a false positive facade. Thank you for sharing.

  10. Social media has tremendously impacted how we communicate, connect with others, and perceive the world. While it has facilitated global connectivity and brought people closer together, it has also introduced a range of complexities. As mentioned in the podcast, one of the most significant implications of social media is its impact on our self-esteem and mental well-being. The carefully curated online personas often lead to social comparisons and feelings of inadequacy. Furthermore, constant exposure to selective images and narratives can distort reality and create unrealistic expectations. Social media has also transformed how we consume and share information, leading to echo chambers and the proliferation of misinformation. However, it has also provided a platform for underrepresented groups, contributing to social movements and raising awareness of critical issues. It is essential to acknowledge both the positive and negative influences of social media, utilize it responsibly, and engage in critical thinking to maximize its benefits while minimizing its potential harms.

    Despite the emotional impacts of social media on people, there are also growing concerns over privacy and data security. As people increasingly share personal information and engage in online activities, there is a heightened risk of their data being harvested, exploited, or misused by third parties.

    Several years back, my mother and I were caught up in a perplexing situation concerning online privacy and security. During my younger days, I used to reside in a boarding school away from my mother. Though we made it a point to converse on the phone every weekend, staying connected on a daily basis was quite a challenge. One late night, my mother received a phone call from an unknown number, leaving us both uneasy and bewildered. On the phone, it was my voice in fear, saying, “Mom, save me, these old men are threatening me,” and my mother was frightened and asked if I was okay. As the call continued, a middle-aged man threatened, saying, “If you don’t remit 50 million won (38,353.88 United States Dollars) right away, your daughter won’t be safe.” Fortunately, my mother was able to sense a potential voice scam when she received a request for money and acted promptly by informing the police. Even though there was a considerable 14-hour time difference between our locations in Korea, I was able to hear the entire story from my mother. The disturbing nature of the situation sent shivers down my spine, as my voice on the phone was so clear that it even frightened my mother.

    The unethical practices on social media platforms have become a pressing issue, especially after the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Millions of Facebook users’ data was harvested without their consent for political gain, raising serious concerns about the necessity for stricter regulations to protect user privacy. My first-hand experience with the misuse of information on online platforms has made me acutely aware of the gravity of this issue as technology rapidly advances. I have gained a deeper understanding of networks and technologies through my involvement in various technology projects, such as joining the CODEMON team, where I teach and compete for codings in different countries. As a future entrepreneur like Tom Hu, I am determined to establish a business that can identify and prevent scams or the misuse of others’ information on online platforms.

  11. Social media and mental health go hand in hand. It can either help you overcome your struggles or be the trigger of them. In this day and age, with the use of social media only ever increasing, teenagers are the potential victims.
    I have known people my whole life that compare their lives to those online. Why aren’t I as smart as them? Why can’t my life look like theirs? Why don’t I look like that? Why wasn’t I invited? Why this and why that. In truth, those are some questions that I have asked myself when I go online. I use the app TikTok by default without much consciousness on pressing on the app, it’s as if my hand has a mind of its own.

    Social media has impacted my mental health when I compare myself to others physically. On TikTok and Instagram, people only show the best version of themselves in the best lighting, best angles, and sometimes even photoshop and go under the knife to get plastic surgery. No one shows the stretch marks, the acne, the frizzy hair, the non toned body because we make ourselves look as perfect as possible even though it may not be the most realistic. During quarantine, I spent an excessive amount of time online simply because I along with the rest of the world couldn’t go anywhere. This was when I started to look at more videos of girls that had(in my opinion) the most ideal bodies that looked nothing like mine. When going online, it is common to find yourself constantly looking at the same person just copy and pasting with the same ideal features. There are some videos showing the supposedly “most beautiful person” or “features that modeling agencies are looking for”. If I weren’t shown so many of the same features that everyone seemed to look at as perfect. Because social media is controlled to specifically look at the algorithm to show which videos you seem to be interacting with, it only got worse. My whole feed became , exercising, and dieting some of which even romanticized eating disorders. I started exercising, finding whatever ab workout there was on youtube and ate less. I actually looked at the serving size and followed it. Even my mom was concerned with me and I overheard her talking to my aunt about it. I just said I wasn’t hungry, but at night I would go to sleep hungry thinking about food that I thought I shouldn’t eat. I told myself that if I completed the workout, I would look pretty like the girls on my feed. I constantly compare myself to those girls, comparing myself to girls that were 18-20 years old as while I was a 12 year old. Even though I agree with Tom that social media can be a safe place where those can be motivated and learn to be more positive, in some instances, it wasn’t so motivating.

    I was able to overcome many of these pestering thoughts by using social media as often and pressing the ‘not interested’ button on these posts. It seemed like a light bulb just went on in my brain that I had to stop thinking like this because what mattered the most to me was that I was happy. I also came to the realization that what one person sees as beautiful can be totally different from others, just like the quote “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. No one is perfect no matter what it may seem like on social media and some posts that show the expectations and reality is really refreshing to see that everyone is dealing with the same thing as you.

    Now that I look back at it, it’s kind of crazy how I compared myself as a child to a grown woman. These days, social media has so much of an effect on how little girls view themselves. They think that if they don’t look like this or don’t have that, they wouldn’t be seen as beautiful. There is no reason why I had eaten less when I should have eaten more to grow, or why I was exercising doing ab workouts when I should have been outside playing a sport, or why I was worried about wearing makeup and covering my face when I shouldn’t have been putting on anything at all and embracing my natural face. Nicely could use some hashtags such as die and ed(eating disorder), or even comments that tell someone to eat less or even more. With the use of Nicely, there may be a solution to help other teens and preteens that go through the same thing or more severe situations as mine.

    • I appreciate you taking the time to share your insights and reflections, on the influence of media on mental health, specifically concerning teenagers. It’s disheartening that numerous individuals, including yourself have encountered the effects stemming from social media. More specifically, the tendency to compare oneself with others on platforms such as TikTok and Instagram.

      I find it inspiring how you managed to overcome this by stepping away from posts that triggered you and instead focused on your own happiness. Understanding that beauty is a matter of perception. Embracing your individual qualities and strengths can be truly empowering. Coming across posts that challenge expectations and expose the truth behind crafted images can offer a much needed dose of reality and more well rounded viewpoint.

  12. Nicely is such an incredible discovery, and I am so glad I learned about your journey in creating this business. I thoroughly enjoyed your ability to look at such a pressing and personal issue that you dealt with and create something so innovative for the future generation.

    While scrolling through the articles on the Global Youth page, I saw one word stand out: ‘social media.’ Nowadays, social media is the norm, and watching it develop into new waves of entertainment is exciting. With every like, comment, or share of a post, my social media account remembers me so well. It seems as though it is my best friend: it remembers what you told them, even from far too long ago, and never fails to make me laugh. Because it knows me so well, it knows how to suck me into a rabbit hole of short videos or photos – though it is addictive, it is brilliant.

    Little did I know, one moment in particular, put my so-called best friend to the test. It was the 24th of December in 2017, or Christmas Eve. I typically celebrate Christmas Eve on my mom’s side of the family, where I would spend time with my halmoni (grandma) and harabeoji (grandpa). However, this Christmas Eve would be different – I would be going to my dad’s side of the family. I rarely see my dad’s side of the family, and the last time I saw them was four years ago. Our Sam family consists of in-laws, second cousins, aunts, and uncles of all races: Hispanic, caucasian, and roots of other East Asian countries. I am very distant from my dad’s side, some of whom I had never seen or met before. Being 100% Asian made me feel subpar while being around them. We are a diverse family and celebrate a Westernized Christmas with a whole turkey, many bottles of beer, and gifts that line the perimeter of the large evergreen tree.
    On my dad’s side, it is a family tradition that the youngest generation – also known as me – would become one of “Santa’s elves” by taking each present from under the tree and delivering the gift to the recipient during the last twenty minutes of the Christmas party. Reading the names of the gifts one by one was hopeless, and I could not get my relatives’ names straight. However, my best friend, Instagram, turned this event around. By searching for each name written on the wrapping paper, identifying our mutual connection: my dad, and then scrolling to find a photo of the relative, Instagram was able to bridge this once-broken cultural gap I had with my dad’s side of the family. Following my fifth and sixth Christmas celebrations, I can now recall old faces and remember new ones.

    Like Tom’s incentive with Nicely, studying social media platforms can inevitably help dissolve issues as minor as a Christmas party to large-scale global issues. Like many relatives, I share a lot with my social media accounts! Whether on my personal account, managing my city’s United Nations Instagram account, or my dog’s account, I enjoy spreading my love of all sorts of things through social media. Nicely’s ability to search through platforms like these and identify patterns related to negative self-talk or signs of mental depletion is crucial to furthering our knowledge of human behavior. Social media platforms help in small moments, like at the Christmas party, is incredible, and honing in on Nicely’s technology will help accurately find evidence of teenage mental health uniquely and innovatively.

  13. In the article “Studying Social Media Use to Quantify Emotions and Improve Mental Health” Tom Hu said, “But as a generation, we’re so exposed to so many issues that sometimes we feel overwhelmed and we don’t really know what we can do to make that change. Both because we’re young and there’s so much we want to change,” after reading his words I feel a sense of validation as if someone finally gets it – the constant bombardment of pressing global issues that we, as Gen Z are constantly exposed to. In a world where information is at our fingertips through technology and social media, its easy to become inundated with societal and environmental issues. Tom’s words acknowledges the weight that we, as young individuals, carry to yearn for changes in the world that sometimes feel too big to tackle.

    Reflecting on my own journey, in the past years, I have been a part of an eco-club. We worked together on beach clean-ups, organized events, and engaged in activities with the aim of contributing positively to the environment. However, even within this club I find myself questioning whether our efforts were significant enough to make a difference. It’s a bit of a paradox, because we’re facing such massive issues like pollution and climate change, our local efforts may seem small.

    There were times where I’d stand there, looking at the coastline and contemplating the larger problem of plastic pollution. It’s not just about the small items like straws and wrappers, but the larger issue of overfishing and the massive fishnets that tangle up our oceans. According to theoceancleanup, over 75% of plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch originates from fishing. This fact alone is enough to leave me bewildered. The real change lies not just in cleaning up the small plastic, but in addressing the challenges in sustainable fishing practices, reducing market demand, and controlling the harmful effects of massive fishnets in our oceans.

    This is where I started my search for companies that fish in an eco-friendly way. However, my excitement was soon met with a harsh reality, even companies with MSC certifications that are supposed to ensure their sustainable standards fakes their certificates due to loose rules and inadequate supervision, making those certifications worthless. It was a tough realization, and I started to question if there’s actually a way to create real change.

    In Tom’s quote he emphasizes the common struggle within our generation – we want to make things better, but we’re unsure how to make a big impact. Like as if we are carrying the responsibility of important issues while not knowing how to solve them completely. When facing such overwhelming issues, it is easy to fall into the trap of waiting for the “perfect moment” to take action. As young individuals we often question the extent of our influence due to our age, lack of experience, and resource. This is where I found myself, unsure whether my efforts are enough to drive change. Yet, as I reflect on Tom’s words, I realize that while these doubts may sometimes be true, it should never stop us from researching, investigating, and, most importantly, taking that first step and persevering with a determination to continue moving forward. The future is ours to shape.

    Looking back at Tom’s experience, I view him as a role model that’s actively pushing for change. Just like how he’s dedicated to transform the telehealth market through Nicely. Tom’s determination to making a real impact inspires me to take my own steps towards addressing these challenges.

  14. “I’ll say that social media is an outlet for Gen Z. It is an outlet for the academic pressure, it is an outlet for their personal lives, and it’s a place where Generation Z loves to talk about and relieve their stress and their load in this time that is so stressed and pressured.” As a teenager myself, your quote strikes me hard, and I agree with every word you have mentioned in this quote. Social media is a very open platform and, simultaneously, a very private and honest platform for teenagers.

    After I had read your article, I was grateful that your future goal is to make Nicely accessible for individuals and not only for professionals to understand their clients better. I believe that your initial plan for producing your platform was crucial. I agreed when you mentioned that since depression is a long-term negative emotional state, having a statistical analysis done by Nicely could prevent individuals from getting into long-term depression. Although treating the patients is essential as well, avoiding depression from happening is also crucial. I believe that Nicely could be an excellent platform for Genz/ teenagers to avoid being trapped in depression and stop it from early signs.

    It was a day when many things happened. A fight with my mom in the morning, a conflict with my teacher in the afternoon, and an unexpected result from my biology test. I returned home, went straight into my room, and closed the door behind me. I need a place more private than my room, yet a place I can get encouraged. Supported.
    I opened my phone, scrolled through Instagram, then went into Snapchat. Without any hesitation, I typed:
    “I feel lost; I don’t know what to do,” I placed the text above the blank picture on Snapchat. Then I ticked off the names through my friends list. I clicked send. Immediately, the notification buzzed my phone uncontrollably.
    Encouragement and people wanted to support.
    “You want to call?”
    “Are you okay?”
    Some of them joked around to make me feel better.
    “Who isn’t? What happened?”
    “About school? I agree.”
    These messages make me feel better; every message either made me laugh or smile. Social media felt like a very private, locked-up room, yet full of people willing to help me.

    However, one concern that I would have regarding your future goal of Nicely being used for individuals to monitor their emotional state is whether the teenagers would be willing to download this platform because they are concerned for their future of getting diagnosed with depression. Some teenagers may be willing to do it individually; still, I believe it would be a minority. In addition, if Nicely ended up being used by individuals (teenagers), we need to question whether they would show the same honesty they had shown before they downloaded the Nicely platform. Since as you have mentioned, social media is one of the ways that teenagers express their feelings and emotional state. But their behavior could be altered if they are aware that someone who could be the professionals or parents are getting their data through Nicely.

    As mentioned in the article, young adults need support and help from adults with more life experience. Therefore, there should be a way that adults could cooperate with this project. First, Nicely is planned to be used by individuals for their purpose. To use Nicely to prevent teenagers from facing depression, there should be support and help from adults. Schools and parents could recommend this platform to their students and child, and parents, as a caregiver, may ask for permission and then have access to their child’s emotional state data. You could collaborate with schools and organizations to introduce and promote Nicely to young adults and households. For example, you could sign a contract with the school, where you could have a visit every year and educate students regarding depression and also promote Nicely. By collaborating with different organizations, you could earn a profit, which allows you to develop Nicely further.

    Social media became best friends with Gen Z. They talk about their stress, pressure, and honest feelings. However, social media cannot make stress or pressure go away; they can only give support and encouragement through texts, posts, and comments. Nicely could change social media to a friend who could also tell individuals their pre-warning of getting diagnosed with depression and long-term mental illness.

  15. I think Tom Hu’s story and creation are incredible. I commend him greatly for striving to make an impact and transform the taboo regarding mental health because he saw his friend struggling. The part in Hu’s interview with Wharton Global Youth where he speaks on how that same friend rooted his start-up was what caught my eye. In the quote, Hu speaks about him, and how he helped the entrepreneur recognize some of the actual effects of social media: “This is when I realized how social media influenced his circumstances, and I started to question the role of technology in affecting the mental state of young adults.”

    I totally empathize with what Hu said and find that this inquiry is something that I myself have also thought about throughout these recent weeks. In the midst of summer break, while scrolling through TikTok, the popular video-hosting platform, I see several videos day-to-day about social media and what it does to people, whether it be the victim themself talking or a person spreading awareness about the issue. And in every one of these videos, the person discusses how social media can be dangerous in regard to the viewers, and how, if not careful, can ruin their life: addiction, body dysmorphia, or self-image struggles.

    Last September, I attended my last year of middle school. While I was there, I met many peers that I found gorgeous, and wonder, how do twelve-year-olds look so mature and well-dressed? Whenever I pass by them in the hallway, I can’t help but compliment them, and yet, they always deny it, instead comparing themselves to the girls they see on social media, with perfect hair, a thin body, and gorgeous eyes. Person after person, that is constantly their response. Like Hu, I start to wonder, are these social media platforms as glorious and eye-opening as teens make them out to be? Are these apps really the leading source of media for Gen Z?

    I start to question, why is it that the most beautiful people I know feel an unwanted instinct to compare themselves to altered and edited photos of professional models, asking, why don’t I look like that Brandy Melville model? Certainly, social media is a double-edged sword, but the only result that seems to come out of it is the downloading of a distorted lens of perfection on its audience.

    As these individuals grow, this sense of perfectionism that they assume they can never achieve may grow only into something more sinister– soon, these struggles with self-imagery and outer beauty will spiral into questions and doubt about their own decisions and judgments.

    Will I be accepted? If I do this, will other people think less of me?

    There is only one way for such a person’s internal battles to cease, and that is by coming together. We, as a society, need to come together and change the role technology and social media have on incoming generations. We, need to work together to change the limitations and boundaries we put on ourselves– to transform social media into a place where people support each other and feel safe.

    Of course, this is no easy task. How do we start? How do we change social media, taking into account its five billion users? You start small. You start by just talking. You start by befriending those same peers from middle school and being the one to tell them that they should not feel obliged to worry about the internet’s reaction to their appearance. By being the person encouraging them to take that photo of themself, the one to tell them not to have second thoughts about the outfit that they’re wearing.

    Although I may not be conducting the formation of a start-up like Hu, I seek to spread more awareness about the topic of social media, and its actual influences on us, little by little. Hu’s remark in this interview has helped me recognize that, although I have only recently discovered how urgently this issue needs to be heard, I hope to take part in its transformation.

    If a mere TikTok video reached fourteen-year-old me, who says I can’t reach the entire spectrum?

  16. “ I see social media as a double-edged sword, where one side can help us promote ourselves and help us see a broader perspective of the world. However, on the other side, it can also promote negative emotions.” As a young Generation Z, avid tiktok, Instagram, and Snapchat user, this quote really stood out to me. A double sided sword almost hits directly what social media is, on one side of it you see revolutionary bonding and teamwork whether that’s reposting petitions or educational awareness posts to organize protests. However, the other end of the sword strikes close to home. Constantly, with every *ding* of a notification, you feel like checking it immediately is inevitable. “What if she snapped back?” “What if my friends posted?” “Who’s together?” That constant bubble of the fear of left out is definitely something that social media intensifies, especially for high schoolers. While posting about your life can be interesting, the innocent action can turn into such a hurtful experience. Comparison is something that seems inevitable as well; whether you’re staring at a photo of models that don’t look anything like you, or using filters that automatically clears the breakouts on your skin, social media is a place where you can really say or change anything you’d like. But that freedom can also be dangerous. There is no full side of a double sided sword, meaning that no matter the user, social media also seems to attack—whether that’s a social justice issue, or the teenager sitting alone on her bed, scrolling endlessly with jealously and insecurity.

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