SOCIAL NETWORKS ASPIRE to connect people, which is a noble but naive goal. When we uncritically accept connection as a good thing, we overlook difficult, important questions: Are some forms of virtual communication more nourishing than others? Might some in fact be harmful? Is it possible that Facebook, for instance, leaves some people feeling more lonely? No one knows for sure. We tend to build things first and worry about the effects they have on us later.
Robert Morris is taking the opposite approach. Starting with the desired effect of helping people deal with depression, he developed Panoply, a crowdsourced website for improving mental health. The site, which was the focus of his doctoral thesis at MIT Media Lab, trained users to reframe and reassess negative thoughts, embedding an established technique called cognitive behavioral therapy in an engaging, unthreatening interface. After a study confirmed the site’s effectiveness, Morris formed a company and is now working on turning the idea into a polished consumer app.
Like other social networks, Panoply will take up that noble goal of connection, but in a more specific, structured way. As software goes, it’s something of a novelty—a product that aims to enrich lives through precise, clinically-proven means, rather than merely assuming enrichment as a byproduct of its existence. READ MORE: A Social Network Designed to Combat Depression | WIRED