It's been a decade since the advent of Facebook, with countless other social platforms quickly becoming permanent fixtures in our lives, and we've since had some time to look back and ask—what exactly have we done to ourselves here? Researchers have been quick to analyze the negative thought patterns that can be triggered by social media. In the UK, a study polled regular social media users and found that half of them felt it had a negative impact on their lives—and yet felt discomfort if they couldn't readily access their account. With new problems created, startups are busy crafting—and capitalizing on—potential solutions. We've seen the flurry of new apps that save you time by better managing your social media posts, as well as those that help you block social media sites (since we clearly can't help ourselves). Now there's social media-specific therapy. Talkspace is a New York-based company that offers its 150,000 users unlimited text exchanges with a licensed therapist, inside a private chat room. Last week, they launched a 12-week social media dependency program that helps people identify and manage social media-related issues.
“We know that selfies can be fun, and that social media feeds our desires to be well-liked and affirmed by our friends and followers,” says Roni Frank, co-founder of Talkspace. “But we have all also experienced some self-doubt because of social media and we want to help each other look beyond the screen and try to reflect on what’s real, rather than what’s being created by a filter in a virtual platform.” The program costs $399 and offers a kind of cognitive behavioral therapy approach. In the first month the program helps you become more aware of obsessive compulsive social media patterns and its harms; in month two delve deeper into the unhealthy belief systems at work and begin exercises to address them; then in the third month, solidify what's been learned and plan for long-term management of social media behaviors.
There's no denying that for many of the very serious issues at hand—depression, anxiety, eating disorders and body image issues—social media is a catalyst, not a root cause, and those underlying issues likely deserve more in-depth, offline attention. At the very least, services like Talkspace may begin to function as a therapy ice-breaker for many people, since communicating with a therapist via text message is a fairly casual approach, with a low time commitment and fewer of the stigmas that surround traditional therapy. Baby steps.
Learn more about Talkspace here.