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Koko: The Stress-Reducing Social Network Designed to Dissolve Depression



The social nature of social media is distinct and interesting. It juxtaposes the power to isolate with the ability to integrate. No one person, or group, directs the organic mutation of social media through time, so it moves by mass influence and slides in a seemingly secret, determined direction, like an upturned glass across a Ouija board. What we do know, is that millions of souls worldwide suffer the ashy taste of isolation, in many cases caused by the body clutching claws and mind numbing drawls of depression. So it seems only logical that we harness the integrating powers of social media for the intended benefit of our comrades.


When we talk of ailments, such as depression, we must oppose the out-dated, dualistic idea that the mind and body fundamentally function separately and merely interact. It is this step that needs to first be taken to distance sufferers and commentators from the heavy stigma surrounding depression. It is important to clarify that we refer to the mind and body as one; it’s all connected; one in the same, the mind is the brain and the brain is the body. And so it is essential to recognise depression as an illness or a body part not quite behaving properly. What we must avoid at all costs, is referring to depression as a choice, or a way of behaving.

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Carrying this clarity Koko has risen, upon the shoulders of Dr Robert Morris. It has not yet become public, but it should arrive in the app store very soon. The choice to impart Koko upon the consumer market followed the success of Morris’ Doctoral thesis; a crowd sourced study called Panoply.

Koko is the result of an altruistic passion for psychology meeting empathetic consumer app creation. It all started with the crowd sourced study Panoply, which compared the differing benefits of written expression with and without anonymous peer support and assessment. This was formatted in the style of a social media post; where one would normally be greeted with “What’s on your mind?” they were met with “What’s wrong?” This encouraged people help lessen the weight of others problems, if not dissolve them entirely, with a clear and more objective perspective.

Due to a lack of coding knowledge, Morris found himself on the back foot at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he pursued a doctorate in “making mental health accessible to everyone.” Having struggled to keep up with the data coding aspect of his doctorate, he found himself frequenting forums to find helpful ‘How-To’s’ and practical advice. It would be these forums that would go on to inspire the framework for his thesis. 

He noticed the structure of advice forums closely aligned with the process of CBT (Cognitive behavioural therapy), which says a lot about the way we naturally communicate when seeking to help one another. He decided to base his model on the positive features of online interaction, outlining here how the anonymous message board would work:
Respondents are taught to (1) offer empathy, (2) identify cognitive distortions, or (3) help users reframe negative situations in ways that are more positive and adaptive. Also, responses are vetted by other crowd helpers before being returned to the person who made the original post. If a response is deemed inappropriate or abusive, it is immediately discarded. All of the aforementioned interactions are coordinated entirely through Panoply’s automation. The user needs to only submit their post to start this sequence of crowd work.




Morris’ approach was somewhat backwards in comparison to that of past, now vastly popular social networks, who traditionally brought a vague idea to life and left it to define itself and grow into its role in society. In contrast, he would focus on fine tuning his project, so the resulting platform would be used exactly as he intended; as a therapeutic tool.

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Considering the huge amount of research and modern attitude behind this new social networking concept, I can see it being a huge success.

The best part about it?

It’s not exclusive to sufferers of depression, it can help anybody. You can decide the role it plays in your life; whether it’s posting once in a while in pursuit of fresh perspective, or just blowing off some steam and discovering whether the cause was worth the stress, Koko, with the power of calm consensus can aid anyone. 

The initial study showed that just 25 minutes per week will reduce stress and depressive thoughts significantly, which is something I’m sure we could all benefit from.
So keep up to date with Robert Morris’ progress, because soon he may be the man to thank for the every day, handheld, household, engine-off reassurance and relief that resides in our iPhones.


Ever wondered what would happen if you gave a half-crazed, semi-concussed, unstoppable maverick a platform to write about social media? Follow him @LeoAtSMF

Contact us on Twitter, on Facebook, or leave your comments below. To find out about social media training or management why not take a look at our website for more info http://socialmediacambridge.co.uk/.


Koko: The Stress-Reducing Social Network Designed to Dissolve Depression Reviewed by Leo Donnelly on Monday, April 20, 2015 Rating: 5

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