The Samaritans launched a new app on Wednesday, called Samaritans Radar. From their website:
[Samaritans radar is] a free web application that monitors your friends’ Tweets, alerting you if it spots anyone who may be struggling to cope. The app gives users a second chance to see potentially worrying Tweets, which might have otherwise been missed.
Created by digital agency Jam using Twitter’s API, Samaritans Radar uses a specially designed algorithm that looks for specific keywords and phrases within a Tweet. It then sends an email alert to the user with a link to the Tweet it has detected, and offers guidance on the best way of reaching out and providing support.
The website for the app says 'turn your social net into a safety net'.
Purple Persuasion wrote about why the app is creepy. Obviously I also have Ideas.
Let's take the description for the app - who is it a safety net for? Safety nets are usually for vulnerable people, not friends of vulnerable people.
I have questions about who would use this app. If you care that much about someone and are wondering if they are struggling, why not just look through their twitter feed. Send them a message. It's not hard to do. If you don't care enough to do that why would you use the app.
I have concerns about how people will respond to notifications that someone may be in trouble, which is linked back to their motivations for using the app. Do they just want to feel like they've done their bit. Do they think that if they send a quick supportive message then everything is OK. I kind of feel like anyone doing that is more interested in salving their guilty conscience than in actually helping people.
If the person you are following is not a good friend of yours, if you don't know them beyond a twitter persona, if you don't know much about the details of their life, then you aren't best placed to respond. You don't know jack and you could make things worse. Using the app doesn't make you more aware of people in crisis, it makes you ghoulish and voyeuristic. What *really* are you going to do if you see that someone you don't know very well appears to be in crisis. What could you do. Unless you know them well, or are trained, you'd probably be better off butting out.
All in all, it's a ridiculous and creepy idea. If I find out that anyone is using it on me I'll be having Words.