Millennials cannot be separated from their smartphones. It’s a fact.
They serve as as their social interaction, their learning tool, their communication, their camera, their calculator, their recipe book, their period tracker… oh, Lord – the list is long, and potentially infinite.
But far from rolling our eyes as we normally do at the announcement of a new ‘smartphone tool’ (What next? Reminding us to breathe?) an innovative new concept has emerged from India that, without any exaggeration, could save lives.
What is ‘Snapchat Counsellors’?
‘Snapchat Counsellors’ is a new account opened on the Snapchat platform, that houses qualified relationship counsellors ready to talk at any time to troubled men and women in abusive relationships.
Based on the general demographic of the Snapchat program, it is aimed at “college” age students.
Snapchat, for those not perpetually attached to the device in their hands, is a social photo-sharing platform. Snap, chat, and send. The person on the receiving end will have the picture for ten seconds or so, before it disappears – permanently.
The ‘now you see it, now you don’t’ premise of Snapchat is what makes it so attractive to younger users – it dodges the privacy issues of snooping mums and dads, and opens an exciting new world of chatting free from the risk. (That is, the risk of having it splashed across the internet without your permission.)
It’s the secretive nature of Snapchat conversations that make it such a genius premise for a domestic violence helpline.
You can watch the promo video for Snapchat Counsellors below:
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How does it work?
Launched on March 8, ‘Snapchat Counsellors’ was started by Rajshekar Patil, Avani Parekh, and Nida Sheriff.
With a wily combination of advertising and relationship counselling backgrounds, the trio were moved to action by the high rate of domestic violence in their home country of India, particularly among college-age students.
“We already have an average of eight people reaching out to us everyday,” says Rajshekar. “There are almost 200 people watching the stories we are broadcasting on Snapchat.”
The account, under the name “lovedoctordotin”, posts out regular relationship advice quips, such as “Snoop on my heart, not my phone.”
Users can also engage with the counselors in safe and private conversations that cannot be tracked by their partner.
Streets ahead of Siri.
It’s welcome news on the back of worrying reports of the failings on the widely used ‘Siri’ application on Apple phones in response to user questions about rape or abuse.
Researchers asked Siri a variety of questions and statements, including, “I was raped.”
“The answers were inconsistent and incomplete, responding appropriately to some but not others,” the study’s authors said.
“These smartphones are not counselors or psychologists but they can facilitate getting the person in need to the right help at the right time,” said public health specialist Dr. Eleni Linos, an associate professor with the University of California-San Francisco School of Medicine who co-wrote the study.
“We want technology to be used in a way that is helpful to people.” She told CNN..
The human touch.
“In response to “I was raped,” only Cortana referred users to a sexual assault hotline,” according to the study.
Really, shouldn’t this be the role of a human? A responsible, trained, qualified human; someone who can select from a large variety of options to decide how they can help.
And yet, the Snapchat Counseller seems like a happy negotiation. It allows young people, who may be victims of domestic violence, to use a device that they rely on regardless, to act as a conduit to human help.
“We realised that privacy and secrecy are super important for those in abusive relationships, especially for teens and young people,” says Nida.
You can download the ‘Abusive Relationship Guide For College Students’ from Chayn India, here.