With more than 2 billion users globally, the reach and influence of Facebook now rivals that of Christianity and exceeds that of Islam. It’s a topic that interests Annie Margaret, a teaching assistant professor with the ATLAS Institute, who investigates how technological innovation impacts society, cognition and human well-being.
Margaret investigates the efficacy of specific psychological methods and contemplative practices as tools to counteract the negative impact of social media on mental health and well-being. She is especially interested in social media’s effect on young women. In the summer of 2022, she will be hosting a digital wellness program for students between 11 and 18 years old.
She highlights how for social media platforms, negative content tends to generate the most revenue.
“Attention to social media means money, and the content that gets the most attention tends to invoke rage, comparison, feelings of inadequacy and loneliness,” says Margaret, who teaches two classes at ATLAS–Neurohacking, and Empathy and Technology. Margaret developed those courses; they offer curriculum centered on neurobiology, technology, design and education to both undergraduate and graduate students.
Acknowledging that social media is here to stay, the goals of the summer program include providing teens with awareness and strategies that promote mental health. “This isn’t going to go away," she says. "The ‘put your phone down’ approach isn’t going to help."