BERKELEY – It’s no secret that long-term use of social media is not good for an individual’s mental health.
Earlier this week,alleging that the parent company of Facebook and Instagram is designed to be addictive and harm children’s mental health.
The suit was filed by 33 state attorneys general in federal court in San Francisco.
Now, Sana Panday, a 20-year-old student at UC Berkeley, wants to do something about the negative feelings users young and old get when they mindlessly scroll on their phones.
Panday is developing AI technology that changes the way recommendation systems used by Google, Facebook and other companies filter what a user sees on their feed.
Recommender systems filter content based on a user’s reaction to certain images, videos or language. Often, topics that are negative or that make you angry elicit the strongest reactions.
Panday’s mission began a few years ago, when she was one of the few teenagers not present on social media.
“It never really resonated with me. And then when COVID hit, I ended up wanting to stay in touch in a way that wasn’t just phone calls,” she recalled to CBS News Bay Area.
Right away, she noticed a change in the way she saw the world and herself.
“I realized that all the information I was receiving about current events was through a very specific lens and that it changed the way I thought the rest of the world thought about it. And then also, when I saw all these beautiful women all the time, I didn’t realize at the time that there was editing or things going on behind the scenes to make them look like that,” Panday said.
Mark Nitzberg is Panday’s professor and the executive director of the Center for Human Compatible AI at UC Berkeley.
“What its algorithm does is take that by literally asking users, somewhat randomly, how they feel and what they think about their online experience last week or how they feel in general “These are carefully designed questionnaires, and they take the result in questions and feed them back into the algorithm. When you feed that back into the system, it turns out that the result improves your well-being,” Nitzberg said.
Panday couldn’t say which companies are buying its AI algorithm due to lab contracts.
But she said she “works very closely and collaboratively with some of the biggest names in social media and they are all very invested in creating a better, more long-term beneficial product for their users.”