Tag: internet

9/11, Hurricane Season, and disaster-related Secondary Traumatic Stress

Yesterday was the 16th anniversary of the 9/11 Terror Attack, and like many Americans I can easily recount where I was at when I saw the coverage of the attack. The event dominated news media for weeks after the events unfolded, and became enshrined as a defining moment of 21st century America.

I cannot even begin to fathom the first hand experiences of people who directly impacted from the attack, but for many, the day is a permanent memory of the way they felt, perceived, and witnessed everything unfold.

Secondary Traumatic Stress occurs when an individual hears the recounting of another’s traumatic life event. Often, the symptoms are similar to that of the more commonly known Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. In recent years, there has been more research being done to see the effects of disasters that affect those beyond those immediately experiencing an event.

In the wake of the recent disasters of Hurricane Harvey and Irma, we have seen coverage of their destruction everywhere from major news sources to the social media that we consume for updates from loved ones. A recent New York Times piece noted that the Weather Channel, being the only network to provide 24/7 access to coverage of the recent Hurricanes, had seen its audience increase nearly tenfold. The coverage of these storms has been vast, because the scale of the destruction of these storms has been unprecedented.

Covering these events is vital, it is important that we do not sensor the news that we receive just because of the harmful effects that it may have on us. But, by being more aware, and staying informed, we can acknowledge the way that having information so freely available can help us to cope, and hopefully heal, together.


Sources –

New York Times Piece: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/09/business/media/weather-channel-hurricane-irma.html?_r=0

Secondary Traumatic Stress: http://www.nctsn.org/resources/topics/secondary-traumatic-stress

Apps, Websites, mHealth, Oh My!

Mobile health applications have taken off as opportunities for public health intervention coinciding with the increasing usage of mobile phones and mobile phone applications in everyday life. A search for “mobile app” in the Journal of Medical Internet Research returns over 1,000 results.

While some of these applications are certainly changing the way we approach our health and lifestyles, some of them can also do more harm than good. As a result, the FDA has developed guidance for the development of these applications to ensure their safety.

However, mobile applications aren’t the only option for providing health information and interactive experiences to users on mobile devices, though they’ve become an incredibly popular option. Many mobile applications could likely be created as websites using responsive web design to make them easily viewable from computers, tablets, smartphones, and so on.

This is especially important when thinking about your target audience. While younger audiences might use their phones regularly, older individuals might be less inclined to use a mobile app, but they might visit a website from their computer or tablet.

A website with responsive web design will also work across platforms (so users can switch between their phone, tablet, computer, or other devices) and will likely take less time and money to develop. They’re also easier to update and maintain for longer periods of time.

Also, if any of your users are like me, they might hate downloading yet another app to take up space on their phone. Apps contribute to clutter on your mobile devices and take up storage space that could be used for pictures, music, emails, and other content.

In a rush to utilize new technologies and meet users where they are, some of these mobile health applications have come out poorly.

Turner-McGreivy, et al. (2016), available from PubMed Central, provide a great comparison of responsive-design websites versus mobile applications, including an easy-to-use table.

Narrative Reconstruction: a Lesson we can learn from Taylor Swift

This past Sunday, Taylor Swift premiered the music video for her latest single, Look What You Made Me Do, at the MTV Video Music Awards. The video went viral upon release, and subsequently has been the subject of a number of internet think pieces breaking down the star’s critiques on different personas of herself in the public eye over the course of her career. In case you missed it, you can find it here.

 But beyond providing a tongue in cheek look into the perceptions of a widely successful pop artist, the idea of reconstructing narratives for self-affirmation can be key to those who have suffered previous traumatic experiences.

 A study recently published in Qualitative Social Work studied the effect of narrative construction, or having an organized and logical story of their previous traumatic experiences, along with a clear sense of self throughout and a sense of how that experience has shaped them. They found that compared to those who had not constructed a narrative, those with a higher level of narrative construction noted an increased acceptance of their experiences, and being more likely to perceive life experiences as positive and significant. Those with an elevated sense of narrative construction credited their success to strategies such as reflective writing, informal conversations with supportive friends and family, and seeking professional help such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

But often, the stressors of daily life are somewhere between trauma and celebrity feud. As summer is ending and the school year here again, it’s a great time to begin to regularly process emotions, especially with the seemingly constant stream of news and celebrity gossip. With September being Self-Awareness month, taking the time for some reflective journaling, or simply maintaining a strong support system of friends and family can set you up for success. If you feel like talking to a professional, the university has wonderful Counseling and Psychological Services, with walk in services regularly available. Beyond that, if you need additional help for figuring out to find a therapist, or if you’re curious about what therapy could look like, check out this article published by the New York Times – How to Find the Right Therapist.


For CAPS Walk-In Services:

Go to the 3rd floor of the Campus Health Services Building.

MON-THURS: 9 am – noon or 1 pm – 4 pm

FRI: 9:30 am – noon or 1 pm – 4 pm.



Qualitative Social Work: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1473325016656046

New York Times Article: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/17/smarter-living/how-to-find-the-right-therapist.html?mcubz=1&_r=0

GamerGate: a case study of internet harassment


Photo Caption: Zoe Quinn, the original victim of GamerGate, is now an outspoken advocate for victims of internet harassment.

This post was written by Marjorie Margolis. Marjorie is Doctoral student in Health Behavior at the Gillings School of Global Public Health

****TRIGGER WARNING This article or section, or pages it links to, contains information about sexual violence which may be triggering to survivors.****

On August 27, 2014, a feminist advocate for women in the tech industry received the following message via Twitter: “I’m going to go to your apartment at [redacted] and rape you.” This message was part of a larger controversy sweeping the gaming community. At the center of the controversy lay Zoe Quinn, a female game developer whose former boyfriend had explicitly blogged about his allegations of Ms. Quinn’s transgressions during their relationship. Over the next several months, Ms. Quinn and those who spoke in her defense were mercilessly bombarded with violent threats and insults. In a Washington Post article, Zoe Quinn describes how her accounts were hacked, her address and phone number posted online and death threats caused her to flee her house. This incident, dubbed “GamerGate” led to a heated debate about inclusion in the gaming community, internet safety, and freedom of speech.

Some assert that the central issue of GamerGate is an allegation that Ms. Quinn attempted to further her career through intimate relationships and that attempts to publicize these allegations were suppressed. Within social media discussions of GamerGate, arguments about ethics in journalism and whether and when to curtail free speech are interspersed with blatant insults branding Ms. Quinn as sexually promiscuous, manipulative, and lying. Some claim that while they do not condone threats toward Ms. Quinn, they feel that the more pressing issue is the ethics of how games are created and marketed.

This case illustrates a severe example of a disturbing trend on the Internet toward acceptance of violence. In youth, cyberbullying has been associated with increases in depression and suicidal ideation. As people increasingly rely on the internet to create and maintain social connections, understanding how to prevent and address violence that occurs in this channel is an imperative public health concern.

Further complicating the situation is the fact that many people gain valuable support and acceptance from online communities. An underlying thread in GamerGate discussions is the sense of companionship found in the gaming community. Given the strong ties within the gaming community, I find the dismissal of violence in favor of “more pressing issues” to be incredibly disappointing. By shifting the conversation away from the violence occurring in their community, they allow it to perpetuate. Compromising the safety of one member of a community threatens not only that person but the entire group. By turning a blind eye to threats and viscous insults, members of the gaming community not only fail to protect Zoe Quinn but fail to protect themselves.

Additional links:



Volunteering to improve health

A volunteer has the power to improve the community, while volunteering has the ability to improve the volunteer. A recent article in Gazette Review highlights four common health benefits of volunteering: (1) decreases depression, (2) helps you stay active, (3) makes you feel internally satisfied, and (4) decreases anxiety.

Just like exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet, it is never too late to start volunteering to enhance your health. In fact, September is a great time to volunteer–September 11th, next Friday, is a National Day of Service and Remembrance. Organizations, companies, and individuals all over the nation will be participating in various activities to honor those who were directly affected by the attacks, but also thank the many emergency responders and volunteers who emerged as examples of exemplary citizens.

9605580633_95c23a2ffeSome reasons people may have for not volunteering are: not knowing where to volunteer, not thinking they have any valuable skills to contribute, or not having time. However, online resources and websites make finding and signing up for volunteering easy. Locally, ActivateGood.org provides a search tool for residents of the Greater Triangle Area to filter volunteer opportunities by location, date, cause, and skills. AllForGood.org is a national example of a similar website. Both provide potential volunteers with the resources they need to get involved and the ability to sign up from the website. These web-based platforms allow users to easily connect with non-profits, schools, and other community organizations in need, thus reducing some of the barriers listed above: people now know who needs volunteers and where to go, people understand that their skills or abilities are needed, and people can specify times they are willing or able to volunteer.

So, if you haven’t already made plans to volunteer this Friday, consider using ActivateGood.org or AllForGood.org to do your part, and simultaneously improve your personal health.

#SmashDiabetes: What to Do With Your Pumpkin Post-Hallows Eve

What is so great about fall?  Pumpkin carving time, of course!  It is a great activity for families or a group of friends to do together.  It is great fun, even though it does require a lot of work, a dose of creativity and can be a little messy.  Pumpkins designs can depict different facial expressions, school logos, or any other creative idea the carver can come up with.

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Not only is carving the pumpkin fun, but the pumpkin seeds and pulp can be used to make delicious fall treats.  Have you ever roasted your pumpkin seeds?  They are easy to make and a nice healthy treat!  Here is a super easy recipe!  Additionally, who can forget the pumpkin pie (or pumpkin cheesecake) at your Thanksgiving meal!

Are you still on the fence about getting your pumpkin and carving a creative design?  Here is one MORE reason to do so!  There is a campaign starting on November 1st called Smash Diabetes.  The Smash Diabetes website invites you to

Join us and awesome people all over the world in ridding the earth of rotting, foul smelling pumpkins and gourds while raising awareness about the frustration of living with diabetes.

The goal is to post a video online of you smashing your pumpkin, using the hashtag #smashdiabetes.  Will you be smashing diabetes November 1st?  Will #smashdiabetes be the next #ALSIceBucketChallenge?

Happy carving and don’t forget to smash your pumpkin along with diabetes on November 1st!

*Photo Credit: Amanda Mezer


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Who The .health Does This Website Belong To?


You may know what to expect when you access a website that ends with .com, .org, .edu, or .gov, but what about .health? Get ready to see this, since the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has been bidding several health-related generic top-level domains (gLTD) such as .health, .doctor, and .med to various companies.

Global health organizations such as the World Health Organization consider the transactions controversial, since ownership of health-related domains can undermine the public’s ability to retrieve information from credible sources. These domains and websites associated with those domains can be worth millions of dollars.

Many internet users understand that the source behind websites ending with .edu or .gov may have the credibility of educational institutions or governmental organizations, respectivel, especially since these websites require third party accreditation. However, these new health-related domains do not appear to have any systems in place.

DotHealth, LLC is a company that recently acquired the .health domain, which means it can sell .health websites to different organizations. The same domain owned by a public health organization could be used for dissemination health information, but it could also be used by a company to associate its products with health.

What do you think about .health and other domains?






Educate to Eradicate Ignorance

Did you know?

  • According to the JDRF, “Each year, more than 15,000 children and 15,000 adults – approximately 80 per day – are diagnosed with T1D [Type 1 Diabetes] in the U.S.”
  • According to the American Cancer Society, the survival rate for stage 4 supraglottis cancer, which is cancer of the larynx above the vocal cords including the epiglottis, is 34%
  • According to the JRDF, “T1D [Type 1 Diabetes] accounts for $14.9 billion in healthcare costs in the U.S. each year”

     Chronic diseases are a constantly evolving field with so many innuendos and details that it is practically impossible for everyone to know accurate facts about each disease. However, to a person who is being directly impacted by the disease, every detail may appear to be common sense. A normal first reaction would be to be mad and think how ignorant that person was to make the comment they made or to act the way they acted.

     However, most of the time, the person is not trying to be intentionally irritating or rude. You can storm off and just be mad the rest of your day or you can take the opportunity to educate them. The person may be misinformed or genuinely may not know the facts about that disease. Take a few deep breaths and gather your thoughts. Once calmed down, explain to the person politely the error of their assumptions or statements. It may take you five minutes now, but it is saving you anger and frustration later that day and you are informing someone of what they honestly might not know. That person can then spread the right information and not be repeating incorrect statements. So, take the time to educate and eradicate ignorance one fact at a time!

Photo Credit: Raymond Bryson

Your Public Health Ideas Wan-TED


Remember that great TED talk, the one you secretly wished that you came up with? You might have even thought about how that brilliant idea could be used for public health practice. Even if you might not be able to implement that idea, someone out there might.

Thanks to Talk Back To TED, it’s now possible to share your new public health ideas in response to the growing collection of TED talks. Simply use the hashtag #TalkBackToTED to share an application of a TED talk to a public health issue or use it to search for ideas from fellow practitioners, researchers, and enthusiasts.

Developed by Peter Mitchell, the man behind the original anti-tobacco “truth” campaign in Florida, and Bill Smith, eclectic behavioral marketing specialist, Talk Back To TED was featured in the 2014 National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing, and Media.

Have an idea? The world may just depend on your ideas worth spreading.








Consider this: Social Media and Cocaine have something in common

By Khou Xiong

This recent Upstream post stated that there has been a recent exodus of Facebook users and shared the Huffington post article that listed a variety of reasons for why Facebook users should abandon their Facebook account to pursue other social media platforms.

Considering the rapid changes in how social media is being used, it is not surprising that this shift is occurring, despite a recent 2013 report by the Pew Research Internet Project that Facebook is the most popular social media platform.

The previously mentioned post specifically discussed the “crushing weight of comparison” that occurs over Facebook. This infographic further describes the negative impacts that Facebook and other social media sites can have on individuals.

The infographic starts out with the question, “Is Social Media Bad for Your health?” and ends with a clear directive for you to “Sign off of social media, and sign on to a healthier you”.

While the sources of the evidence presented in the infographic are not clearly listed, most people will likely agree with the messages it is trying to communicate:

  • Social media is extremely time-consuming
  • One’s mental health can be negatively affected by social media
  • Social media interferes with everyday life
  • Time spent on social media could be better used doing other things, such as exercise

Most alarming however, is the evidence that social media has an addictive component.  The infographic reveals that self-disclosure on social media activates the same part of the brain that is activated during cocaine use!  This part of the brain, the Nucleus Accumbens, is also associated with addiction and the sensation of pleasure.

It is a scary thought to consider that social media has the potential to negatively impact our lives in destructive ways. Yet, even when armored with this knowledge, the irresistible sense of pleasure that is activated when using social media will lure us to continue consuming social media.

I do not believe that social media is evil and am not advocating for the end of social media use.  However, I would encourage social media users to reflect on how is has affected your life.

Does spending time on Facebook make you feel bad about yourself? Has it interfered with your personal and/or professional relationships?  Does it take up too much of your time?

If the answer is yes to any of these questions, consider making a lifestyle change and reduce your social media use.  As the infographic suggests, time spent on social media can be used for exercise instead. This could result in an overall healthier lifestyle.