Building on Social Media

The serious side of social media.

Most social media apps can seem rather lighthearted or inconsequential. But Jimmy Chen of Propel looked at apps like SnapChat and Tinder and saw a way to help people in need. In this TEDx Talk, Chen explains how the concepts behind some not so serious apps may be making a serious difference to some families.

Chen starts out talking about the origins of SnapChat and discusses how technology is being used to solve problems we understand. But, rather than creating an app for a superficial need, Chen is trying to help people fight poverty and hunger. The app his company created, Fresh EBT, is designed to help families monitor and manage their use of the funds provided through the food stamp program. The goal is to help these families use their benefits wisely and ensure that their monthly benefits last throughout the month.

Supporting Web Links
Discussion Questions/Activities
  1. If time permits, show Chen's TEDx Talk to the class. Chen notes that many apps like SnapChat and Tinder are being developed by people from similar backgrounds - young men living on either the East or West Coast with some discretionary income. These individuals are solving problems they understand. Do students agree with Chen's statement? Chances are, at least some of the students in your class do not match the individuals in Chen's description. What types of problems do they understand? What types of software might they create?
  2. Divide the class into small groups and have them review some of the software products mentioned in the Supporting Web Links section. They all have a common theme of trying to solve a problem for the good of society. Ask each group to come up with a social problem that a software application could help resolve. Each group should do some preliminary research and put together a presentation to explain the problem and their software solution to the class.
  3. As an individual project, ask students to locate an existing software product, similar to Chen's Fresh EBT, that is contributing to the social good. Students should explain the app and provide some background about who developed it and what the software's objective is. Students may choose to write a brief paper explaining their findings or create a presentation to share their information with the class.


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