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liv2Bme - Addressing the Impact of Social Media


If you were born after 1995, you probably don’t remember life before the Internet. Being connected through social media and smartphones is now just a part of growing up for many children and adolescents. While many of them have positive experiences online, there are risks involved, including whether the excessive use of social media can ultimately harm their mental health. Research in this area is still in its early stages, but the significance of social media in the lives of many young people is clear.

It is no secret that social media platforms were deliberately designed to hold users' attention as long as possible, tapping into psychological biases and vulnerabilities relating to our desire for validation and fear of rejection. While we know that these platforms were designed for excessive ‘active’ use, too much ‘passive’ use of social media – just browsing posts – can also be unhealthy and has been linked to feelings of envy, inadequacy and less satisfaction with life. Studies have suggested that it can lead to ADHD symptoms, depression, anxiety and sleep deprivation.

Cindy Abel and her co-founder Tosha Marks both have daughters who grew up using social media. One of the motivations behind the creation of Liv2Bme was their experiences and observations watching their daughters use social media and the awareness of how dangerous and damaging it can be. It is a fact that depression is on the rise worldwide, and half of all mental illnesses start at age 14. On the other hand, the perception and awareness of the dangers of social media- how the algorithms are designed, the regulatory frameworks and loopholes that exist, especially as it relates to minors- is information that is very hard to find.

Liv2Bme is a social media platform for teenage girls ages 13-18. On their app they encourage and create a positive, supportive online community consisting of both peers and mentors for girls to connect with and get advice on anything they may be dealing with in their lives. Mentors are college aged girls who have completed a specifically designed curriculum that trains them in how to support and engage with other members.

Liv2Bme inspires a healthy body image and communication is focused on kind interaction and meaningful connection. Liv2Bme is one of very few online platforms targeting teen girls with the intention and ability to help them get guidance on things related to personal life, school, health or other interests (called affinity groups). It differs from other social apps in the following ways:

While parents rightly worry about the implications of excessive social media use, adolescents have a right to have their voices heard in matters that concern them. But they are rarely consulted in these debates. Teens’ own voices and experiences are important to guide emerging policy and practice. After all, young people often have more expertise with these technologies and grew up with them as their major form of communication, entertainment and information. Liv2Bme is considering all these factors as they work to overcome the challenge of ‘weaving ethics into design’ of the platform itself.

The short-term goals for Liv2Bme are to build their technology infrastructure behind the app and increase their capital. They are currently preparing for beta testing their platform and hope to build their social media presence. They are also doing focus groups and working on designing the curriculum for mentors and potentially an educational resource for parents. In the long term, they envision having partnerships with corporate brands who share similar values. It could also expand in the form of a white label for smaller more niche populations who would benefit from this technology.

Lots of exciting things to come, stay tuned!

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