SXSW Interactive 2013

Mobile's Unmentionables


A 2011 Healthline study uncovered compelling information on internet health searches. Desktop searches covered popular health topics: cancer, weight loss, or sleep. Mobile searches were more private, often related to sexual or mental health: chlamydia, bipolar disorder, smoking cessation, and herpes. These topics are our society’s unmentionables, and while people might turn to their friends or loved ones to face cancer or get help with weight loss, they are more likely to turn to their phones as their first and perhaps only confidant for these sensitive topics. Mobile health apps have done a great job of tackling fitness and weight loss. But the coupling of mobile to sexual health, mental health, and addiction seems to have eluded the tech community. The opportunity is there, but the innovation is lacking. This session will address what is being done and assess the potential of mobile to be more than a repository for personal secrets, instead to become a source of healing and purpose.

Additional Supporting Materials


  1. Why hasn't the tech community tackled this topic? The data is there and titans like Facebook and Google already use this knowledge to their advantage in their advertising algorithms. Shouldn't people be clicking to improve their quality of life?
  2. This stuff is messy. Do you really think a mobile mental health app can compete with the sweet, dopamine-laden goodness of my Facebook news feed and my 35 other push notifications?
  3. What are the simple things that can be done, the baby steps to get started with innovation?
  4. Has anything really worked so far?
  5. Why do people trust their mobile devices with these secrets, aren't Apple and Google tracking every click, swipe, and pinch?



Jeremy Vanderlan, Technical Lead, ICF International

Meta Information:

  • Event: Interactive
  • Format: Dual
  • Track: Health and Medicine
  • Track 2
  • Level: Intermediate

Add Comments

comments powered by Disqus

SXSW reserves the right to restrict access to or availability of comments related to PanelPicker proposals that it considers objectionable.