Can technology help fight loneliness in schools?
As a teacher, beyond the daily challenge of inspiring young minds, I have focused on identifying loneliness — above anything, I never want a child to feel alone. As a tech creator, I always ask: Can technology help?
The short answer is yes.
A holistic communication platform like Flathat presents unique opportunities to foster interpersonal connections in a psychologically safe digital environment. Let's consider this: Mia is a 14-year-old freshman in a high school of 1080 fellow students. In her Flathat profile, Mia selects a set of interests: Lacrosse, Basketball, Jane Austen, Neil Gaiman, and Hayao Miyazaki films. When asked about her favorite subjects to study, she responds with photography and astronomy.
The Flathat Interest Graph can match Mia's interests to other students and interest groups that share common tags.
Our lazy orange cat, Pep that serves as a "bot" in Flathat, can let Mia know about interest groups available to her:
Pep: "Mia, here are some groups you might enjoy: Forty-one of your fellow students are in the Jane Austen fan group. Would you like to join? Nineteen of your fellow students are in Stargazers. Would you like to join?
Mia joins both groups.
Entering a channel can be intimidating, so Pep encourages Mia:
"You've joined Stargazers with 19 friends! It's a great time to introduce yourself to the other members."
The Flathat interest graph creates connections with like-minded peers that ideally lead to meaningful in-person interaction, a key contributor to decreasing feelings of loneliness. This is a practical example of data-for-good.
Traditional social media creates a theatre of competitive sharing; it becomes pageantry where images of "perfection" drive a sense of missing out (FOMO) among youth. It is no surprise that limiting social media decreases loneliness and depression. The design of these platforms is not to augment but to subrogate in-person engagement; they need their users on the screen, not out in the sunlight among friends.
While the perils of social media come to light, we should not throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater. Technology can do good. As a teacher, I would go as far as to say we need it to do good.
The Flathat Interest Graph is in the alpha stage of development for the Flathat communication platform. As ever, we welcome your feedback. Jodi Fox