All posts in “Social Good”

Obsessively checking social media during a crisis might harm your mental health

Survivors of three recent disasters — the northern California fires, the Las Vegas mass shooting, and Hurricane Maria — used social media and texting as lifelines to connect with loved ones, seek aid, and search for the latest developments. 

A new study, however, suggests that people who get updates during a major crisis from unofficial channels like random social media accounts are most exposed to conflicting information and experience the most psychological distress. 

The study, published in Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, surveyed 3,890 students whose campus was locked down after a shooter fired on people. Since it’s difficult, if not impossible, to begin a scientific study during a life-threatening disaster or crisis, the researchers asked students about their experience a week after the incident and analyzed five hours of Twitter data about the shooting. (Details about what happened were anonymized at the university’s request.) 

“If random people you don’t know are tweeting information that seems really scary, that’s anxiety-provoking.” 

“If random people you don’t know are tweeting information that seems really scary — and, in particular, if you’re in a lockdown and someone is tweeting about multiple shooters — that’s anxiety-provoking,” says Nickolas M. Jones, the study’s lead author and a doctoral candidate at the University of California, Irvine. 

While nearly everyone said they turned to officials like school authorities and the police, some people reported seeking more information from other sources, including social media, family, and friends. The researchers found that the people who most sought and believed updates from loved ones and social media encountered the most misinformation. They also said they felt more anxiety; heavy social media users who trusted online information, in particular, felt extreme stress. People who relied more on traditional media sources like radio and television didn’t have the same experience.

Jones says that people might turn to social media to feel more control in the midst of a crisis, especially if authorities aren’t sharing regular updates. But that sense of control just might be an illusion if someone instead sees rumors and conflicting information and feels more anxious as a result. 

“You’re going to feel something no matter what because you’re a human being,” says Jones. “Where you go from there to mitigate anxiety is what really matters.”

In other words, it’s perfectly normal to seek information from any available source and to have an emotional response to rapidly unfolding events. But people who feel helpless during a crisis may be primed to see patterns where none exist, making rumors and misinformation particularly dangerous. Their ability to process and scrutinize information may also be diminished. 

While Jones and his co-authors only surveyed those affected first-hand by the lockdown, he believes the public might experience a similar dynamic during crises. Think, for example, of the last time you scrolled through social media during a disaster and tried to sort through confusing accounts and rumors. It’s probably not that hard to recall a sense of creeping anxiety. 

Part of the broader problem is that the public now seems to expect fast and frequent updates thanks to the speed of social media, but authorities often still operate with tremendous caution. In the campus shooter case, 90 minutes transpired between two official updates from the police. During the entire incident, Jones and his co-authors found that a handful of false rumors were retweeted hundreds of times, including information about multiple shooters and what they were wearing. 

The study’s authors recommend that emergency management officials stay in regular contact with people. Even if they don’t have new information, they can still send messages that help alleviate anxiety and uncertainty by addressing the situation and reassuring the public. They should also monitor social media for rumors and “tackle them head on,” says Jones.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, for example, compiled a list of debunked rumors regarding Hurricane Maria recovery efforts in Puerto Rico. The city of Santa Rosa and Sonoma County, both of which were devastated by fires in Northern California last week, posted tweets to address rumors. Efforts like these are crucial. It’s equally important to ensure people can actually access official websites, social media pages, and text message updates in the midst of a disaster. 

But the bottom line, says Jones, is learning to seek news carefully: “For anybody who’s turning to social media to get critical updates during a crisis, I think they just need to be skeptical about some of the information they’re seeing from unofficial sources.” 

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This tool will help you find the perfect social good boost for your startup

Image: EtiAmmos / Shutterstock

Incorporating social good into your business model is no longer just a nice idea. Consumers have come to expect it and are even willing to pay more for a product from a company that has impact, accountability, and ethics at its core.

But launching a successful social impact startup, like any new business, requires financial support and guidance. Now, a new tool is helping social entrepreneurs find the right business accelerators to get their ideas off the ground.

The Accelerator Selection Tool, created by nonprofit Conveners in collaboration with Sphaera, ImpactSpace, and other partners, weeds through the hundreds of social impact accelerators out there in order to find the right one for you. It launched this week at the Social Capital Markets Conference (SOCAP) in San Francisco.

Users can search for accelerators by name or location, but the truly helpful feature is the ability to choose from a variety of filters in the top menu: Impact Region, Impact Focus, Program Offering, Corporate Form, Stage, and Travel.

For example, if your idea is to help women in Kenya gain access to financial services and empowerment, and you’re primarily looking for mentorship in your startup’s nascent stage, the accelerator Spring could be the perfect choice.

Conveners calls the tool “the first aggregator of its kind,” and it could cut down hours of work searching for the right accelerator — time that, for a new startup founder, is better spent elsewhere.

“Many of the entrepreneurs I talk to said that one of the things that took a lot of their time — sometimes as much as 100 hours — was figuring out what accelerator to apply to,” Avary Kent, executive director of Conveners, told Fast Company. “I feel like entrepreneurs should be spending time building their businesses, not figuring out which program can provide the right support.”

The Accelerator Selection Tool has 750 accelerators in its database. People who work at accelerators, incubators, fellowship programs, and competitions can add themselves to the search results by creating a profile in ImpactSpace’s database.

A lot of entrepreneurs probably know several popular incubators and accelerators in this space by name. There’s Benetech Labs in California, Echoing Green in New York, Uncharted (previously the Unreasonable Institute) in Colorado, IMPACT in Europe, and even Silicon Valley’s Y Combinator, which has a wider scope but a growing focus on social impact startups.

But just because an accelerator has name recognition doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for all social enterprises, especially at different stages of development.

The Accelerator Selection Tool is poised to be a startup founder’s best chance at cutting out the time-consuming process of finding an accelerator and getting started on what really matters: changing the world.

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Facebook launches profile picture frame to celebrate International Day of the Girl

Image: mashable composite: shutterstock/facebook

It’s high time girls around the world got some extra recognition, and Facebook is working to help make that happen.

Facebook has created a special profile picture frame in honor of Oct. 11, which marks International Day of the Girl — a day meant to inspire people to work toward advancing the rights and future opportunities of young women while celebrating their talents and accomplishments.

When users log on to the network Wednesday, users are prompted with a “Today’s girls, Tomorrow’s Leaders” notification, which explains International Day of the Girl. It will also present the option to add a celebratory frame to their profile pictures.

Image: screengrab/facebook

This year’s frame adds five illustrations of young girls to the picture, showing them peeking over the edges with big smiles on their faces.

Image: screengrab/facebook

To add the frame manually, simply go to Facebook’s profile picture frame page and select the frame you want. Then adjust the length of time you’d like it to be featured for and click “Use as Profile Picture.”

Facebook also offered a frame on International Day of the Girl last year, which was a bottom border doodle of a girl drawn on lined paper.

In the past Facebook has unveiled profile filters and frames to celebrate holidays and other notable moments, like the LGBTQ Pride rainbow filter that was added after the U.S. Supreme Court ended gay marriage bans in a historic ruling.

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How one healthcare initiative is using tech to train health workers in remote villages

Image: Rachel Larson/Last Mile Health

Healthcare is among one of the hottest topics circulating around the world right now. It’s an issue that no single person can solve on their own — a frustrating detail for those in critical need of help. One CEO is tired of the inaction and is fighting back by providing healthcare to those in developing communities by sourcing from within those communities. The power is, quite literally, with the people.

Dr. Raj Panjabi is CEO of Last Mile Health — a nonprofit that aids people in remote villages in Liberia and other developing countries who lack basic access to healthcare. Panjabi and his team function on the basic principle that everyone everywhere deserves adequate treatment and has designed a sustainable healthcare model that employs and deploys trained community health workers to places that are not in the public sector.

One way Last Mile Health aims to solve the healthcare crisis is by recruiting people within struggling communities by way of a digital health education system that effectively trains locals to deliver quality frontline care. 

“We’re partnering with the Liberian government to create a model where lay people from these rural villages are hired to serve as community health workers,” said Dr. Panjabi in an interview with The New York Times

“We train them in about 30 lifesaving practices. We then give them backpacks with medical supplies and smartphones connected to nurses based at clinics. The professionals on the phone supervise and coach.” 

Image: Gabriel Diamond/Skoll Foundation

It’s within these remote villages that disease can flourish, due in part to the lack of doctors, leading to outbreaks of viruses like ebola and malaria. 

After receiving a $1 million prize from TED, Dr. Panjabi and his team are well on their way to making their bold healthcare initiative a norm for countries like Liberia. Dr. Panjabi told Fortune that he aims to “recruit the largest army of community health workers the world has ever known” to make this dream come true — a move that will change healthcare as we know it.

Last Mile Health’s community health workers use any means necessary to get to the remote villages that are otherwise inaccessible by typical means of transit. Whether it’s by canoe or motorbike, they plan to get there and save 30 million people by 2030. 

Rest easy on these cozy, comfy, eco-friendly bamboo pillows

Bamboo, the latest trend in bedding, is gaining popularity due to its eco-friendly nature and supportive structure
Bamboo, the latest trend in bedding, is gaining popularity due to its eco-friendly nature and supportive structure

Image: Mobile Kingdom

They say a good pillow can be the key to a good night’s sleep. They also say you should replace your pillow every year. If neither of these things has proved true in your life, you’re not alone—and these bamboo pillows could be a great solution.

You may be shocked to discover exactly how much better you could sleep with a pillow crafted from an organic material like bamboo. Bamboo, the latest trend in bedding, is gaining popularity due to its eco-friendly nature and supportive structure. But unlike some its competitors (ahem, memory foam), bamboo doesn’t break the bank. In fact, you can replace your current set with this two-pack of organic jumbo bamboo pillows for under $40. 

These 20″ x 28″ pillows sport a bamboo-rayon cover that not only helps eliminate dust mites and all kinds of allergens but also reduces heat retention. There’s nothing worse than trying to get comfortable with a pillow that doesn’t breathe or, in some cases, even pulls in more body heat. With these, you’ll enjoy a cool sleep that molds to your head like down while offering the neck support of memory foam.

In fact, whether you’re a fan of a big fluffy pillow or a firmer, more supportive variety, the bamboo pillow offers elements of both, working to conform to your specific sleep needs for maximum comfort while you gather your nightly eight hours.

Valued at $120, this two-pack is only $37.99 right now (a 68 percent savings).