In a concerted effort to combat the rising mental health challenges among youths, Toyosi Olola, a health communication researcher, tech founder, and community organizer, is making significant strides with her transformative solutions. Olola’s diverse background, including being a 2x TED organizer and founder of Webstant has positioned her to address the complex intersection of social media and mental well-being.
Reflecting on her childhood experiences, Olola attributes her inquisitive nature to a supportive upbringing. Her father’s unconventional yet effective approach of providing daily newspapers for over a decade fueled her intellectual expansion and ultimately influenced her career choices. Studying in the United States presented her with both challenges and opportunities. Initially struggling to find resources and integrate into the Western student life experience, she later established a community for Nigerian Communication professionals, creating a vital support network.
Against the backdrop of a burgeoning global mental health crisis, Olola has dedicated six years to proposing data-driven mechanisms addressing the debilitating effects of social media abuse on mental health. Stressing the importance of a collaborative effort, she highlights the involvement of stakeholders, including parents, government, schools, and society at large.
Olola sheds light on the neuroscientific aspect of social media use, elucidating how platforms stimulate the brain’s reward center, potentially leading to addictive behaviors. She identifies specific mental health disorders exacerbated by excessive social media use, such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, and body dysmorphia. Rejecting the notion of demonizing social media, Olola advocates for positive solutions.
She discussed her initiatives, including the distribution of free resources on mental wellness and the design of a school curriculum to address social media addiction among students. Proactively advocating the use of social media for good, she designed a youth-friendly online store builder that allows youths and adolescents to use social media for good to launch courses and sell products which will help them build financial literacy, and make good use of their screen time while saving towards their future. It allows them to build a business and customize their store effortlessly with an intuitive and easy-to-use interface.
Additionally, she calls for policy changes to address privacy breaches by social media companies, targeting youths. She also envisioned a step-by-step approach to changing the world, emphasizing the need for policy changes and the involvement of government and authorities to minimize the compulsive behavior induced by prolonged exposure to social media.