Fn 13: We Can't Just Log Off: Mental Health and Tech

"I think the path forward will involve some reliance on technology tools in treating mental health."
— Dr. Elias Aboujaoude

Does the internet help or harm our mental health?

In this season two premiere of Function, Anil explores how the web made an impact on his mental health and talks to experts like Dr. Elias Aboujaoude, Stanford University psychiatrist and author; and web creators Desi Rottman and Angelo Stavrow about the how the internet is changing the way we see ourselves and interact with others.

Together, they explore the consequences of our love affair with the internet and discuss ways to use the internet to manage our mental health.

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Big thanks to LinkedIn for supporting the second season of Function.

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Transcript

Anil Dash: Welcome to Function. I'm Anil dash. The idea for this season of function came from me reflecting on the fact that I have now spent most of my adult life on the internet. Despite that, now more than ever, I don't know if I can trust the internet. I mean, it's a scary place. Every time we pick up our phones or open our laptops, we take chances with our privacy. Everywhere you turn, you're hit with hate speech or harassment online. We're inundated with misinformation. But when I first got on the web, it didn't even occur to me not to trust it. You see, I was in my twenties and I was in a pretty dark place in my life. Before I tell this story, I want to give a little bit of warning to you that we're going to be talking about depression and even self-harm. If that's a topic that's sensitive for you, take a moment, catch your breath, but I hope you stay with us for this story.

Anil Dash: Back in my mid twenties I was living in Spanish Harlem, uptown in Manhattan and things were not going my way. I think we've all been there. I didn't have a job. I did not have the relationship that I'd wanted anymore. I did not have any money in my pocket and on top of that, I had been, for years at that point, struggling with my mental health. That led to the moment where I was walking down the street in Spanish Harlem and there were people all around, but I definitely felt very alone and I felt very strongly that I wanted to end my life. It was as painful a moment as you go through, but not long after that, maybe because I was looking for an escape from my problems, I turned to something that I'd always loved, which is technology.

Anil Dash: I grew up having computers, but there was something new happening. Blogs were just starting to become a thing and we didn't have today's social media, but we had the beginnings of that way of connecting to other people online and that's what happened. I made connections to people who, in some cases, are still my friends today. I don't say this to be cliche, but the internet saved my life. It gave me a connection that I needed and in some ways it gave me a reason to go on. I was lucky to find a way of getting better, you know? For me it was everything from good medical care and diet and exercise and medicine and all that stuff. I'm very grateful for that.

Anil Dash: Today I have a great job where I run a company that I'm proud of and I get to work with amazing people. I have a wonderful family and friends and I get to channel all that energy into hopefully making technology that can help other people too. Maybe make their lives easier or help them find that kind of connection that I found. But for a lot of people today, it is hard to imagine a world where the internet is good for your mental health instead of just being a source of stress and anxiety. Sometimes I honestly wonder if it's worth it at all. If the benefits of being on the internet and connected to social media are outweighing the risks to our privacy and even to our mental health.

Anil Dash: We can't log off. Most of us are not going to delete our Facebook accounts or our Instagram accounts. Even if you did, there are definitely some other aspects of your life that are connected to the internet anyway. Given that reality, this season on Function, we are asking the unavoidable question, can we trust the internet? To answer that question, we are going to be talking to some of the people who warned us about the risks and the harms that were coming our way. We're also going to talk to the people who are trying today to make the internet a better place. We're going to start by looking at the ways that technology affects our mental health. From the earliest days of the modern internet, doctors and researchers were already warning us that our relationship with tech was manifesting almost like OCD.

Dr. Aboujaoude: Originally, my work very much focused on obsessive compulsive disorder and with the internet revolution unfolding, we started seeing patients whose relationship with the internet was really described and felt compulsive, so it made sense for them to come to the obsessive compulsive disorder clinic.

Anil Dash: Dr Elias Aboujaoude is an author and a psychiatrist who teaches at Stanford. He's been studying tech's effect on our mental health for 15 years.

Dr. Aboujaoude: We very quickly realized that the whole focus on internet addiction, quote unquote, was really missing the point because so much was going on and people who couldn't be described as addicted but who were being transformed psychologically by the internet. Eventually as I became more and more convinced that these technologies, of course, are here to stay and here to become more powerful and ever faster and ever all consuming, I started looking for a possible silver lining and I found that in tele mental health, basically applications that rely on technology and that aim to provide mental health treatment. Increased access to care, possibly make care more cost effective.

Anil Dash: I talked to Dr Aboujaoude about the internet and social media, how it's changed the way we see ourselves and even how we interact with others.

Anil Dash: I'm curious to start from a very high level. How do you think our adoption of technology has accelerated over the last several decades, has changed the way we look at ourselves or think about ourselves or interact?

Dr. Aboujaoude: I think we think of ourselves as basically a spread across almost two spheres now. There's the real life definition that we've always had of ourselves, but there's an increasingly dominant ambassador that we have in the online world. Increasingly that persona takes up more and more of our energy and increasingly we define ourselves more and more as a function of this online footprint.

Anil Dash: Is that different than the effect that other technologies had when they came into our lives. Whether it was television, radio, whatever else. We brought other devices into our home, we've had other things we plug in.

Dr. Aboujaoude: Sure. No, we've brought other devices. We've brought other media. When novels first came around in the 18th and 19th centuries people warned about them and wondered whether they would spell the end of culture and of civilization. The same happened with radio and the movies and then TV. With each and every wave, there are these deep transformations and these significant red flags.

Dr. Aboujaoude: With internet related technologies, however, it's been very different for two main reasons, I think. First of all, the breakneck speed of technology evolution is such that before really we've had a chance to catch our breath and begin to understand it, it's already moved on to something that's faster, that's more engaging, et cetera. This leaves a researchers and leaves us as a culture perennially behind in terms of understanding it.

Dr. Aboujaoude: The other big difference is the degree of interactivity. Much more so than any of the other media that I mentioned. This is important because it helps explain this very rapid adoption. If you're playing a video game, for example, video games reward you or punish you, they talk back to you. It's a very different experience than somebody who's relatively passively watching TV, let's say or minimally engaged in a movie. That's another difference that I think helps explain the speed with which our culture has been transformed and how difficult it is for us now even having realized some of these negative things that have come with the internet revolution. How difficult it is to try to achieve some sense of balance between our online lifestyle, but also being in the moment offline, in real life, with real relationships and feeling okay about it.

Anil Dash: You referenced a little bit there what the research shows. When did research starts showing the internet or our digital technology consumption having an effect on our wellness, our health, our emotions?

Dr. Aboujaoude: Then red flags for a long time now. Some of the earliest case reports date back to the late '90s. The patient zero if you will, was described around 1996. Yeah. There have been red flags all along. I think as a culture we refuse to see them. It was a love affair that evolved very quickly and with every new iteration, every new operating system, there was a reflex that meant that you absolutely had to move on to this new, better, flashier, faster device and platform. We did that really without pausing and asking what was going on psychologically. If we had paused and asked ourselves those questions and looked at the research that was already being published, I think, again, the red flags were there to be seen.

Anil Dash: Are there differences in the manifestation of technology's impact or the Internet's impact on people that vary by culture, vary by age group, vary by demographics, vary by geography?

Dr. Aboujaoude: I wanted to believe that. I've had an opportunity to talk about these issues and talk about my work across continents and to very different audiences, different in terms of cultural heritage, but also very different in terms of age groups, socioeconomics, and the more I had the opportunity to speak to diverse audiences, the more convinced I am that this is basically a universal phenomenon. A lot of the issues that we're discussing are relevant to people who may share little else. A lot of the focus on when it came to problematic internet use and video game addiction was on digital natives, right? They grew up with these technologies, they didn't know life before Google, so we all assume that these issues are going to be much more problematic in that age bracket. The more we study these issues across the entire age spectrum, the more similar these forces and these transformations appear to be. I think when it comes to the negative impact and the forces that we're talking about, we're more similar than different.

Anil Dash: There are a lot of people that have found positive things online. My experience was that I grew up very isolated. I was in a community where there weren't people like me and I've seen this from people in a lot of underrepresented groups or minority groups where they say they found commiseration online. They found identity online. They found people to relate to online. I'm curious about that sort of balance about some of the positive human interactions. Is that also something that you see in the research? Is that something that's consistent or across different communities as well?

Dr. Aboujaoude: There are definitely many positives to be found online. As a practicing psychiatrist, I treat many patients with social anxiety disorder, for example. For them, social media and the opportunity to interact with someone online, break the ice, initiate a little bit of conversation before meeting them in person, makes a huge difference and it's a very positive difference. We don't want to ignore that. I think if we approach the internet and internet related technologies as a medium, that's one aspect of our life, but try to find a balance that integrates it along with other things that are meaningful to us and other activities, I think we're more likely to use the internet responsibly and more likely to experience its positive effects and its benefits, than if we allow it to dominate and take over.

Anil Dash: I think we're all pretty familiar with apps like Talkspace. There's these apps that sort of help you connect to people who could help you manage your mental health. In many cases connected to professionals. I'm curious about though, other kinds of apps. I've heard people talking about they use apps for performing functions that you used to have to make a phone call for or that you used to have to talk to somebody, maybe a high anxiety or antagonistic conversation, can instead be routed to something that's a little less fraught in an app. Do people use some apps to sort of mitigate some of their challenges on social interaction or some of the.

Anil Dash: ... to sort of mitigate some of their challenges on social interaction or some of the things that might be a personal challenge for their mental health.

Dr. Aboujaoude: I'm sure some people do. I think, more often though, people who communicate via apps or texting, who communicate either anonymously or with invisibility, meaning they can't actually see the other person eye-to-eye, this particular combination allows for some unpleasant traits to surface pretty automatically. Like, we're more likely to behave aggressively. We're more likely to say negative things, to be impulsive, and our statements to be narcissistic even, if again, we're either anonymous, or we're not seeing the person eye-to-eye, and if we're interacting over media that really prioritize speed over any other feature, right? So, if the driving force, the main motivation is to return a text as quickly as you can, then again, more opportunity for these negative traits to surface.

Dr. Aboujaoude: I think the more we take communication in the direction of texting platforms and apps, and away from some in-person, grounded back-and-forth, the more likely it is for these traits to appear, and for culture to move in that direction as well. There's no surprise, I think, why we're becoming more polarized as a society, why we have less patience with people that are different from us, why we're more extreme in our opinions, and the middle ground seems to have disappeared. I think all this is a reflection of what goes on online.

Anil Dash: I come at this from the perspective of somebody who's made apps, but also, I work at Glitch, and we have a community full of people that build apps together, right? And one of the trends that we're seeing is people making little tools or utilities to sort of manage their own mental health. It is about, let me put this stressful idea into a virtual paper shredder, or in an envelope and send it away. Or, there's lots of different manifestations of it, and most of them are not super technologically advanced. They're not pretending to be a substitute for actual therapy, or things like that, or for proper treatment, but they're like a little tool, almost like tying a string around your finger to remember something, where people were sort of saying, "This helps me feel better." I'm curious if you think that might be a path forward that's sort of analogous to the things that our therapist, or a psychiatrist, or psychologist might tell us around how to manage our unhealthy behaviors, or the things that stress us out.

Dr. Aboujaoude: I have two views on that. I think it's wonderful for these tools to be more accessible and more creative. We've been using behavioral tools like that in psychiatry for decades, so they can be very helpful indeed, and if we find a way to democratize access to them, it would be a very good thing. However, there are literally thousands of apps that offer this kind of help and these kinds of tools. They have not, by and large, received any research, or any scientific scrutiny, and what we're seeing is that for a sizable number of patients, unfortunately, the approach now is to go to Doctor Google and diagnose yourself, and then find all these online, untested, self-help tools that you can use to treat yourself, thereby bypassing any professional in the process of getting a diagnosis, or getting a prescription for the treatment that works. So, that's why I hesitate to wholeheartedly recommend them, even though I do think they have a place as part of a well-structured kind of treatment approach that's being delivered with the guidance of a trained professional.

Anil Dash: What do we think might be the large scale societal consequences of technology staying on the course that it's on in terms of people's public health or large scale social health issues?

Dr. Aboujaoude: This is a very interesting moment in the history of the internet revolution. I think as a culture, as of the last couple of years, we've become much more aware of the downsides. We've become much more aware of the negatives, but at the same time, we're feeling hopeless about being able to change anything because we're so deep in it, and so addicted between quotes, all of us. I think a priority, an absolute prioritY should be for our laws to reflect this new reality. Our online communications can no longer be governed by the Communications Decency Act that dates back to 1996. So, I would say a priority should be for the legal context and the political context that we are operating, and for them to catch up with this revolution, more money devoted to researching these transformations that we've been talking about. For something that has completely redefined our lives, there's actually very little by way of solid research that we can point to psychologically speaking, that explains how it is that individuals have changed the way they have, and as a result, how society has changed the way it has.

Anil Dash: I get to talk to a lot of people who create technology, and a lot of our audience, people who work in tech, and really sort of think about these issues deeply, and care about getting it right. If you could sort of share your one wish with people who make the apps and the websites you use every day, from the perspective of somebody who is concerned about everybody's wellbeing and mental health, what would you ask them to do?

Dr. Aboujaoude: I would tell them to not necessarily read complicated scientific papers that nobody reads and nobody understands. I would ask them to take a close look at their own online behaviors. A close and honest look. And I think if they do that, they will recognize a lot of the features, and a lot of the problems that we've been talking about, from impulsivity to unnecessary online violence, to extremism online, to narcissism. These are traits and forces that all of us can relate to, and all of us are guilty of to different degrees, and if they recognize them in themselves, I think there'll be more mindful of how their inventions and how their creations are playing out in the culture at large, and maybe more protective of our psyches as a result.

Anil Dash: One of the reasons that it's hard to find trust in technology these days is because it's so impersonal. We put our information into these little devices in our hands, and those apps and those phones are made by people who don't even seem to care about us. They don't know us. How could they care about us? But the internet wasn't always like that. When I started building stuff online, most of the time what I was looking at was something made by another person, not some giant company. It's like the difference between a home-cooked meal and fast food, it's got some soul in it, maybe it's a little rough around the edges, but it feels good. It feels like you made a connection. I even made stuff. I made simple websites, little tools. They were not a big startup that millions of people are using the product, but it felt like I connected to somebody, and it helped me find a place. But today the web's a little bit different.

Anil Dash: Despite that though, creators are still finding their place by building things just for themselves, and the couple other people who are, well, weird in the way that they are weird. Listen, I am not saying these little apps and tools take the place of a qualified mental health professional. They absolutely are not the same thing as talking to a therapist or even the apps to help you talk to a therapist, but it does have a lot of value to provide a little bit of joy, a little bit of peace of mind, a creative outlet. Those things are exceptionally good for us, and that's something that the internet can be for us too. So, after the break, we're going to hear from two creators who are doing exactly that.

Anil Dash: Welcome back to Function. There are a lot of popular apps that help people manage their mental health. You've probably heard about some of the popular ones that connect users directly to mental health providers like Talkspace and other apps, but there are some lesser known apps that help you navigate your feelings in real time.

Desi Rottman: One of the apps that I made is a WorryTree app, which kind of prompts you to notice a worry that you're having, and then work through it step-by-step, and if it's not something that you can actually take action on yourself, it will help you kind of shift your thinking away from the negative thought loop that you're having.

Anil Dash: That's Desi Rottman, and these little tools and apps that she's created have bubbled up on Glitch and Glitches is the company where I'm the CEO, but what all of us have ...

Anil Dash: ... Glitch, and Glitch is the company where I'm the CEO. But what all of us have in common on the team building this is we still have that ideal, that love, that the internet could be a place where you make these little projects. That maybe they're quirky, maybe they're just for you, but other people are going to connect to them. And Desi and the work that she does is exactly the thing that we're all trying to enable in this community, which is building these, maybe an app, maybe just a simple website. But it's something that other people say, "I'm never going to get that from Facebook. I'm never going to get that from Apple. This is something that came from somebody who's heart, and it speaks to me and it connects to me and it reminds me of why I got excited about the internet in the first place."

Desi Rottman: In my day job, I'm a QA analyst so I try to break things. But then I also, on the side, like to create kind of little apps or programs that can help with depression, anxiety and ways to cope with those feelings that can come up. So those kinds of things, I found myself going back to time and time again rather than relying on an app that might send me push notifications on my phone that I would either ignore or feel stressed by or not need at the time that it came up. The joy, I guess, in making your own is that you can make it work for you, however it's going to work for you.

Anil Dash: And even though Desi built The Worry Tree for herself, other people, even strangers are finding it useful.

Desi Rottman: I've had a few people reach out on Twitter and just say like, "Thank you so much. Your worry tree kind of helped me to pivot from the thought loops that I was having about X, Y, Z." That's like a really cool and satisfying thing to know that something that I made to just help myself is also helping other people.

Anil Dash: That's the thing about the internet, no matter how isolated you feel or how unique your problem seems, there's probably someone out there feeling the same way too.

Angelo Stavrow: I'm Angelo Stavrow. I work with a solutions engineering team at Glitch.

Anil Dash: In his day job, Angelo works with me at Glitch. He's our liaison for talking to the biggest tech and media companies around. But in his spare time, he creates apps that help him manage his mental health and feel better. And so I talked to Angelo about his creative process and creating those little apps.

Anil Dash: So now you've built a number of apps that are sort of focused on helping people with self-care or taking care of how they feel, maybe what their wellness levels are. I want to start with one just so people can get an idea of what that means, which is Thought Detox. Can you describe a little bit about what that app is?

Angelo Stavrow: Yeah. So Thought Detox essentially is just the place where you can type a thought, something that you want to just get out of your head. You then just hit send, it folds up like a nice little piece of airmail and disappears from your screen. Nothing is recorded, nothing is logged anywhere. It's purely just a place where you can write something down and let it just go off into the ether.

Angelo Stavrow: It kind of came about from, the more I think about my ability to do the things that I want to do, the more I realize that that's got less to do with things like task managers and calendars, and really more about wrangling my feelings and where my head's at. So some writers that I know recommend, take a sheet of paper, write out all of the just crappy things that you're feeling and get it out of your head. And then destroy that sheet of paper or shred it, put it in your barbecue, whatever.

Angelo Stavrow: I don't know, maybe that's cathartic. Maybe it just helps you reason about why you're feeling the way you are, but it's supposed to give you freedom or some kind of closure on these emotions. Since not everyone is a paper and pen type of person, I figured let's make a little app that lives here in browser so it's always available to you.

Anil Dash: So the cool thing about this is there's sort of this wonderful whimsy to the illustration and animation style. That this thing really just does feel like my shoulders are unburdened by this weight, my stress is floating away. How much of that was sort of intentional about the feeling that you were trying to cultivate there?

Angelo Stavrow: Yeah, I think that is kind of important. We've gone away from these skeuomorphic designs that try to mimic real world things, and I don't know if that's necessarily a good thing. I think there is something very grounding about physical objects, and if we can replicate them a little bit, why not? And I also think that whimsy helps to just let you feel like you can play. That was kind of the thinking. Let's take it and make it look like some old-fashioned airmail stationary and animate it so that it folds up nicely. It does feel, I think, a little more like a place where you can just scribble whatever because of that.

Anil Dash: When people think about building an app, I think they're thinking about code and technology, very technical things. And yet, you're really coming at this almost from the emotional state that you want to create for someone.

Angelo Stavrow: If you focus too much on the code, you forget about the fact that your users are humans, right? And that their delight is kind of paramount when it comes to creating something that people love to use.

Anil Dash: So another app in a similar vein that you created is the Therapeutic Caribou. And I have to admit as really as an ugly American, I'm like, to me, it feels like a very Canadian app and you are Canadian. But tell us about the Therapeutic Caribou and what it does; and whether, of course, this is something grounded in our stereotypical American view of there being caribou everywhere in Canada?

Angelo Stavrow: You know what, it really isn't. That was just a whole lot of serendipitous convergence, I think. I'd been playing around with a sentiment analysis library. And what that does is takes text that you give it and scores it on how positive or negative it feels. And around the same time, I created a new project on Glitch. It was randomly assigned a name like all Glitch projects, and that name was Therapeutic Caribou. The caribou is on the 25 cent coin in Canada, so it just kind of spoke to me. And I kind of horde projects that are created with like these funny names just in case you want to do something later with them. It just kind of sounded like a fun and silly little project where you can talk to a caribou, and the app runs a little bit of very basic sentiment analysis on what you said and it replies to you.

Anil Dash: What do you think inspired you to create these apps or inspires others to create sort of self-care apps or emotional management apps?

Angelo Stavrow: With most apps that act like some kind of... I mean, I don't want to call this a utility, that feels a little too cold. But anything that's designed to help someone, you give them a starting point and the support they need, and there is no limit to what they can do from there.

Angelo Stavrow: I turn to my kind of tech toolkit of these kinds of apps when I need to clear my head. But at the same time, it's funny because I find that the best way to have a healthy relationship with technology is to set boundaries, and be a little circumspect about the tools you're using and set some expectations. Like, "Please, if you need help, don't use Therapeutic Caribou. Go and find someone to talk to, a professional." So these are, I think in a sense, just more of a way to scratch my own itch for what I need to clear my head.

Anil Dash: Is there some irony in using technology to hopefully reduce our stress and to take care of ourselves when we know so much of our stress is caused by what technology is doing?

Angelo Stavrow: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, is it just me or is it a little bit messed up that I have to turn on, do not disturb on my phone? At some point it slipped into our collective consciousness that like a device that actively disturbs you is a reasonable default. What do you think that does the people, right? And then we're conditioned to feel like we always need to be connected and ready for interruption, so the tech industry adds something like screen time or digital health management. So I mean, I don't know, I can't speak to the impact of features like that, but someone once said that it's like Odysseus lashing himself to the mast to resist the siren song.

Anil Dash: I mean, there are apps that will literally connect you with a therapist and help you, right? It's sort of a tool for really actively managing your health in those ways. And one of the things I found a lot of people say is, "I'm already worried about what companies are doing with my data. I'm already worried about my privacy. I'm already worried about personal information about me leaking out on the internet."

Anil Dash: I'm curious sort of tapping into your expertise as an engineer, if you look at the apps you've built, one, what were the choices you made about what information is kept, about users; but also, two, how can people trust that these kinds of things are secure or can keep them safe?

Angelo Stavrow: In the case of both apps that I've built, and generally speaking, the way I try to build things if I have the opportunity to do so is just don't collect anything. And nothing that anyone is sending to or typing into Thought Detox app or saying to the Therapeutic Caribou, nothing of that is recorded because it's not of any value to me. And so I make it explicit right in the text field or at the top of the page that nothing is being recorded.

Angelo Stavrow: Because these are just little side projects, I can make them open source and people can check it out for themselves if they have the technical know-how. But I think it's important to be pretty transparent about how you're doing these things. These are potentially very, very sensitive things that somebody might be putting into an app like this or discussing over an app with somebody on the line on the other side. You never want to jeopardize that trust.

Anil Dash: So one thing you sort of mentioned in passing there is that the apps that you've made for self-care are open source, which for people who might not be experts in this stuff, it means that the code is available and people are allowed to reuse it. Does this mean that people can make their own self-care apps or they can make their own versions of what you've created?

Angelo Stavrow: Yeah, I would encourage that. Well, with Glitch, it's really easy. There's a little button in the upper right corner, you can click and there's a remix option in a menu that pops out, and then you'll get a copy of that app running exactly the way it is. So you want to change a caribou for your large four-legged mammal of preference, go ahead. You want to take a crack at making the conversation a little more helpful or advanced, it's right there for you.

Anil Dash: You're an engineer. You're somebody who makes technology and thinks deeply about these things. How does that inform your approach? How does the idea of being aware of self-care or being aware of people's mental health needs affect the tools you create or your attitude towards making software or even working with people who make software?

Angelo Stavrow: You've got to care. It's really that simple. You got to make sure that your aiming for leaving people's mental state, I guess, in a better place than it was when they came to use your app.

Anil Dash: Angelo, thank you for joining us on Function.

Angelo Stavrow: Always a pleasure.

Anil Dash: As tech creators, we have a responsibility to think about how our software and apps make people feel. That's an idea that we've kind of gotten away from. And as Dr. Aboujaoude pointed out, losing that idea has been detrimental to the mental health of the people using our apps. In the early days, there was this element of creating something you enjoy or that you just want other people to enjoy. And in a point now where so many of our apps are just to us by faceless companies, there's no wonder it makes it feel impersonal or like technology is sometimes at odds with our mental health.

Anil Dash: That's why I find something really reassuring about developers like Desi and Angelo and so many others. These are people that approach their work with that responsibility in mind, and it's not just them. If you look around at the corners of the internet, maybe far away from the usual giant tech companies, you'll find other developers and designers and creators using their skills and following their muse to make meaningful apps. They're making little tools that are good for your heart, maybe even good for your soul. And if we go and we seek those things out, they can make our days a little bit brighter. They can make our burden a little bit lighter, and in some rare special cases, they may even save your life.

Anil Dash: That's it for this week on Function. We'll be back next week with a new episode.

Anil Dash: Function is produced by Bridget Armstrong. Our Glitch producer is Keisha "TK" Dutes. Nishwat Kirwa was the executive producer of audio for the Vox Media Podcast Network and our theme music was composed by Brandon McFarland. Thanks to the whole engineering team at Vox and a huge thanks to our team at Glitch.

Anil Dash: And you can follow me on Twitter @AnilDash, but you should also follow the show @PodcastFunction, all one word. Please remember to subscribe to the show wherever you're listening to us right now, and also check out glitch.com/function we've got transcripts for every episode up there, apps, all kinds of stuff to check out about the show. We'll be back next week and we hope you'll join us then.