What will they think of next? A recent article on CNET has the answer—a new smartphone app designed to monitor our behavioral patterns and take note of when we are feeling depressed. And look, the last time I told a boyfriend my feelings were hurt, he reacted by turning up the radio and rocking out to Queen—so if this app gives one shred of a f**k more than that, I am ready to settle down with it. First the Hitachi Wand and now this! Sorry folks, but God is definitely a woman.
This magic app, called StudentLife, was developed by a team at Dartmouth who gathered data from 48 students using the app for 10 weeks. The program was pitched to them as a way to monitor student activity on campus but its true intention was for faculty to have a better idea of the mental health status of their students. While it was kind of slimy to not let the kids know what they were up to, it was probably necessary to get the accurate data needed for the app’s end game.
Social Butterfly or Couch Potato?
So what exactly does the program monitor in order to surmise there might be an emotional issue with its downloader? First it tracks the phone’s GPS to see how much the person is on the go. Studies show that students who were out tended to be in better mental health than those sitting in one place studying or sleeping or watching Modern Family (especially if they weren’t watching Modern Family). The app keeps track of how often and how long the owner is on the phone, connecting longer phone conversations to more fragile mental health. Of course this makes sense, as anyone who talks to their mother for an hour is probably in need of some kind of an intervention. The program also claims to be able to monitor a person’s sleep—how long they slept and between what hours—but it’s unclear how it gathers that info. Perhaps it accesses our Sounds of The Amazon noise machine or our DVR, which would show that I can only fall asleep while watching reruns of Medium. The program then concludes that the more I am sleeping, the more likely I am to be depressed. Yup, sounds about right.
The New Sponsor of 2015
While the app’s primary purpose is to be a tool for college faculty to have a better idea of where their students’ heads are at, this could also end up being an amazing resource for adults who struggle with depression—or alcoholism. If we are willing to download this program on our phones, perhaps we could tell it to offer us advice or suggestions when it feels our behavior is dipping into the danger zone—just like our sponsors do. Instead of having to call someone every time you feel alcoholic, how cool would it be to let your phone monitor that for you and send you notifications like “You better get to an AA meeting! There is one in 45 minutes just two miles from here!” Amazing. Of maybe it could rotate messages depending on our behavior like, “Call your sponsor, it’s been a month” or “Do not call Pete again, he’s a narcissist.” Hell, I’d pay $2.99 for that.
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