As I write this, there are 2.3billion active social network users in the world. For millennials, as people so commonly refer to us, social media is engrained into our being. We don't really know (or remember) a life where we wouldn't wake up each morning and check Facebook and Twitter. We use social networks to keep tabs on the lives of our friends and family, and to share updates on what's happening in own lives, whatever the time and wherever we are in the world.
Social media is connecting us in ways that have never before been possible. Today, we're able to converse with a brand immediately if we have an issue or query, and 'e-meet' like-minded individuals to ourselves, with similar interests, passions, opinions and goals. We're given instant access to an online community providing as-it-happens commentary on live events.
However, being within touching distance of everything the virtual world has to offer is not always seen as positive thing, and social networks have become the subject of much scrutiny. There's one issue in particular that's creating a lot of debate - the suggestion that social media is bad for our mental health.
Recent reports from the National Citizen Service Trust found that 60% of 12 to 17-year-olds suffer from loneliness, and one in 20 said they never spent time with friends out of school. Social media is shouldering the blame, as young people closet themselves away in a virtual world, stunting the development of vital social skills needed for later life.
The Sunday Times claimed that these results 'reveal a concerning lack of social integration and level of loneliness amongst the next generation of young people, which could be harmful to the UK's economy and well-being in the future.' Yet it's not just young people who are vulnerable to the negative mental side effects of social media, which has been criticised for leading to increased isolation, depression and mental health problems amongst people of all ages and backgrounds.
That's one of the reasons why we feel that what we're doing at Javoo is important and unique. The global social network we have created has one clear aim: to improve the mental health of those living with and affected by Alzheimer's disease, whether they're a fighter, a family member, a friend or a carer. With Javoo, we want to combat the negative stigma attached to social media use, harnessing the power of technology and an engaged social network to innovate and advance Alzheimer's care.
My brother and I came up with the idea for Javoo whilst caring for our grandfather, who lived with the disease for over 10 years. Both teenagers with a healthy interest in technology, my brother and I were shocked and frustrated at the overwhelming lack of technological resource and support for Alzheimer's care. Whilst caring for our grandfather we often struggled to get advice quickly, speak to people going through a similar situation and often felt isolated and helpless.
Across the world, there are over 44million people currently living with Alzheimer's, which impacts over 500million lives. Yet despite the growing scale of the disease, innovation remains slow. Following our grandfather's passing in 2013, we decided to take matters into our own hands, and built a global social network to provide people affected by Alzheimer's with the strength they need when going through what we know to be a very dark and often lonely time.
With the Javoo app, users are able to create their own private social networks to share photos and videos, which can be used to trigger memories for someone living with Alzheimer's disease. They can also engage with an open, friendly and supportive community to share their personal experiences and use the app's chat feature to connect with and arrange to meet others who are also affected by the disease. We brought our own personal experiences to the app, which is unique in offering its online community access to a 24/7 support service run by experienced advisors who have devoted their lives to Alzheimer's care. Rather than encourage isolation, Javoo's global social network aims to encourage interaction and eliminate feelings of loneliness.
Many social networks are criticised for providing their communities with a news feed filled with angry political rants, tragic breaking news, and hundreds of posts about people struggling with illness or persona turmoil. We've turned this on its head, and developed a feature dedicated to sharing good news about advances in Alzheimer's care. We're aiming to uplift and support our community and provide the strength they need when going through what we know to be a very dark and often lonely time.
Despite the body of negative sentiment towards social networks among the public, there are some of us who are embracing online communities to fight for something much larger. With Javoo, we want to leverage the concept of the social network for good. We would love to see others follow in our direction and join us in the fight against Alzheimer's.