Vaishnavi Varma ’21 uses sentiment analysis to improve social media health

As humans, we are in constant “go mode.” We are continuously transitioning from doing work, to going to class, to checking social media without taking a moment to take a deep breath and become mindful of what we are doing. Particularly, as technology has progressed over the past decade, we are taking in more information than ever without taking a second to realize what we are reading and how it is affecting our well-being.

Over quarantine, Vaishnavi Varma, a senior majoring in Physics from Abu Dhabi, began to realize the toll that her media consumption was taking on her mental health after finding the meditation app Headspace. She says, “I really like meditation because it’s not super time-consuming and it helps me become more aware of my emotions.”

Through meditation, she was able to realize how much her social media use was impacting her. Varma says it “was difficult to find a balance because when I would go completely off social media, I felt super disconnected, but I also noticed the negative effect it had when I was on it too often.”

She wanted to create an application that helped social media users realize what they were consuming and how it was affecting them. As an intern at Bank of America, Varma learned about an interesting subject called sentiment analysis, essentially how neutral, negative, or positive words were in any form of media. Using this newfound knowledge, she decided to create NewZone, an application that would be incorporated into your Instagram newsfeed and would tell you if content is rated positively, negatively, or neutral so users can be more aware of how their consumption is affecting their mental health. 

This is not Varma’s first idea as she’s had the entrepreneurial spirit ever since middle school. She says, “I’ve always done small business here and there… I’ve been upcycling old jeans since middle school… I think it really helps me explore my own creativity.” 

Varma says that she couldn’t have done this without the help from the Blackstone LaunchPad and Techstars at SU Libraries. She explains, “My idea was very new, and I came up with it during winter break, but I had very little direction.” With the help of her Rubin Family Innovation Mentor Sam Hollander, she was able to get insight into how to develop her idea. Varma said, “Sam was super helpful in asking the right questions to help guide me in the right direction and build a solid foundation of what I wanted my venture idea to be.” 

Varma will be working as a Business Technology Analyst at Bank of America after school but is excited to continue building out NewZone. She says, “Social media has some great aspects but there needs to be some awareness surrounding it.”

If you want to learn more about NewZone check out its website.

Story by Jack Lyons ‘22, LaunchPad Global Fellow; photos and graphics supplied