My Week With Nod
All I can say about 2020 so far is that it has not been the best year. My commencement ceremony has been canceled, my campus has been closed, and it has been a while since I’ve seen my friends and family. Social distancing, though the right course of action, does make life lonely. That’s why when I learned about Nod, an app that aims to help maintain and deepen social connections, I was excited.
Nod was developed by Grit Digital Health and Hopelab to “help college students form and maintain meaningful social connections and combat loneliness on campus” through the use of social activities. In light of COVID-19, Grit Digital Health and Hopelab modified the content of the app. Although Nod’s purpose remains the same it has pivoted its content to include activities possible through virtual spaces to accommodate our new socially distanced reality.
Using the app for the last week I have found it to be a fun addition to my smartphone. It suggested enjoyable activities that have made my world feel less lonely, though there were a few times where the activities would either be confusing or mundane.
Upon first opening the app I was asked to rank my preferences for social connection. My top three (out of five) were “Deepening connections”, “Keeping in touch from afar” and “Connecting through kindness”. The home screen then suggested activities that were tailored to my preferences. Activities such as “Contact someone you have not heard from in a while”, and “Read books to children online”. This was a nice touch because I found that having these personalized activities so readily available made me more willing to give them a try. If none of the suggested activities on the home screen spoke out to me I could further browse all the other ones the app had (52 in total).
I found myself checking the app quite often simply due to its charming design. The combination of colors, layouts, and illustrations, perfectly blended with one another. This not only made the app pleasing on the eyes but also easy to use and navigate. It was just a joy to use, I could quickly open up the app and easily glance at the suggested activities to see if any of them drew my attention.
When completing an activity the app would prompt me to choose a reflection. They were either short guided meditations or interactive activities, both lasting about two minutes. These were aimed to increase my self-awareness, and the ones that were suggested would be based on a rating of how I felt about the activity I just completed. For the most part, the meditations did bring me a sense of calm, making me more present. However, the interactive activities were more hit or miss, some left me confused, like the “Give yourself some credit” activity. Where I was instructed to tap in between two turtles so that they could fist bump. Sure it was an entertaining sight, but even with an explanation of the rationale behind this activity I still did not get the point of it.
Other interactive activities, however, were great, where they actually made me think more positively about life. For example, the “See the bigger picture” activity. In this one, I was asked to zoom out from a squirrel, and as I was zooming I could see that the squirrel was in a forest, then that the forest was part of the world, and then that the world was part of the universe. This activity was described as being a way to see the bigger picture, which can often be hard to do during challenging times, such as this one. Gaining that new perspective made me feel more hopeful about life.
It would have been nice to see more options for these reflections, like being able to save ones I enjoyed or maybe having reflections be more personalized, where the app takes in feedback then suggests to me reflections that cater to them. Nonetheless, this app provides many activities and reflections that I could explore. With this in mind, I would advise people to approach this app with an open mind and to explore the activities available, and to not be discouraged if some activities aren’t working for you right away.
Nod provided me with a great week. It showed me many virtual activities I would have never thought of on my own. And even though this app may be specifically aimed at helping students, I think it would be beneficial to a wider range of people. The science backs up what is this app’s driving force, showing that social connection has a multitude of benefits like increases in happiness, physical health, and longevity. The main thing I would note is that although suggested activities and reflections may elicit different reactions from different people, the app does provide plenty of suggestions so that there is something for everyone. Nod is a great free pick-me-up that has the potential to help you feel better and stay connected.