Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The new Facebook app that may save your life.

Many young people that I have worked with have accused me of having some sort of telepathy skills. That is, that I have the ability to know what it is that they are thinking.  While the thought of having some superpowers does sounds pretty cool, the truth is that the majority of my skill has been learned through experience and active listening.  What that basically means is that when I am listening to a young person talk I am trying to take in all the cues I can.  How are they sitting?  What is their tone of voice?  What language are they using?  Where are they looking as they talk?  I then merely reflect back what it is that I think they just communicated to me.  Through this process I can sometimes get a sense of what a kid may be thinking.  One reason for this is being able to assess if a young person is at risk of hurting themselves or others.

There is a new app (the Durkheim project) being developed for social media that is trying to do the same thing.  Using a complex algorithm, the app analyzes status updates of users that may indicate if someone is at risk of attempting suicide.  This is based on the online language used by those who have committed suicide.  At this point the primary target demographic is veterans, the implications for young people is immediately apparent.  Has science found a way of eliminating youth workers?

You can read more about the Durkheim project here: http://mashable.com/2013/07/06/facebook-predict-suicide/

Privacy issues aside, there are some other potential concerns.  One is that analysis outside of relationship is very subjective.  For instance there is a 19-year-old serving jail time exactly because someone stumbled upon a threatening facebook comment left by the kid although he claims it was merely sarcasm.  Action needs to be taken in cases like this, but sometimes that action is that the kid needs to go for a slushie while having a conversation about what is appropriate to share online, sometimes police need to be involved.  It is a fine line, but it is makes me advocate for more youth workers rather than just another app.  Read more about this topic here: http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/02/tech/social-media/facebook-threat-carter/index.html

Tell me your thoughts on the subject below.
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