The Wail Team and Inception
Once we pulled the trigger on developing the app, it came down to three basic ideas.
First, almost everyone (including each of us: eating disorders, insecurities, secret desires) who deals with a big problem or an inner demon believes they're alone in their problem, and that either no one will understand or no one wants to hear about it.
Second, almost everyone deals with this paradox--we wish we could talk about our big problems, but worry they are too embarrassing, too bad, or otherwise too unique to say out loud.
Lastly, when we finally do talk about our big problems, we experience a revelation. We find out we're one among many with the same problem. Our problems are not too bad or embarrassing. And of the greatest potential, we can experience relief.
Why have categories?
When you post a story on WAIL, you first choose one of six categories to post under (Addiction, Shame, Fear, Lies, Regret & Guilt, and Pain & Illness). Why do that?
The mission of WAIL is to prove we're not alone, which the primary usage of the app does when you post your story and other users click "me too" or "support." The categories, likewise, further that mission. Specifically, there's a small reason and a larger one why categories as bringing people together.
The small one is that you can immediately see on your main feed screen which stories are similar to your burdens. The big reason is WAIL is not stopping with stories and interaction with those stories. We will also be periodically posting broad reports through the main feed on WAIL further showing no one is alone in their burdens,
Wail is completely anonymous. Nothing identifying is required, only a made-up username, password, age, and gender. Other information which is optional is also non-identifying--marital status, occupation, race. We hope you share this information so that WAIL can further its mission to prove none of us are alone in our problems.
We use the same platforms as large apps like Uber, which handle much more sensitive information than we do. These are very secure and very private platforms. So, even though no identifying information is stored, what information is collected is very secure.
As far as the community within the app, you control who can comment on your posts, or if you even want comments on your post. And if for some reason you do receive a comment from an unempathetic person, you can remove it immediately.
We all have crap in our lives. With some of it, we're too embarrassed or ashamed to tell any one.
With that stuff, we need a place to unload it, to talk about it, to bellow our burdens with cathartic volume. It's why best friends, psychologists, and blog readers are in such high demand. There also happens to be a slew of psychology on not suppressing your inner demons, but rather disclosing them somewhere (check the blog)
Our heaviest burdens, however, are more intimidating to confess. They yell at us and beat us into silence. We ask ourselves, "will anyone understand this?" And we invite the misery of suppression by answering, "definitely not."
For our heaviest burdens, just getting them voiced out loud is a monumental and cathartic achievement. But why?
Our human experiment with Wail is to give people (including myself), a place to unload our heaviest burdens, through which we hope to prove no one is alone in them. When we're waist deep in life's muck, Wail will show us we're wading alongside people just like us. Wail gives us a safe, anonymous place to cry out. It gives us proof we're not alone.
The following article can be found at http://www.timigustafson.com/2014/bottling-negative-emotions-can-just-harmful-acting/:
Having been born and raised in England, I am intimately familiar with the habit of keeping a “stiff upper lip.” As a cultural phenomenon, this means that emotions – positive or negative – are not readily expressed, at least not in public. Some may take this as good manners, others as signs of rigidity and unnatural restraint. In any case, researchers warn that perpetual emotional suppression is nothing benign but can lead to potentially serious mental and physical health problems and even premature death.
Cultural Norms and Expectations Can Put Limits
On How We Meet Our Emotional Needs
One study conducted by psychologists from Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Rochester found that suppressing emotions may increase the risk of dying from heart disease and certain forms of cancer. This confirms earlier studies that have linked negative emotions like anger, anxiety, and depression to the development of heart disease.
The health risks increase, it seems, when people have no way of expressing or acting on their feelings, the researchers say. We know that stress can build up and become chronic when our “natural” fight-or-flight responses meant to help us survive in conflictous situations are frustrated. Similarly detrimental effects may occur when negative emotions remain unexpressed.
Some experts suggest that acknowledging emotions, especially distressing ones, and airing them from time to time is an important component of mental health.
In our culture, people quickly feel guilty or ashamed when they appear as being overly negative or critical, says Tori Rodriguez, a psychotherapist and writer based in Atlanta. We are biased toward positive thinking, which is worth cultivating, but problems arise when people start believing they must be upbeat all the time, she says.
“Anger and sadness are an important part of life, and new research shows that experiencing and accepting such emotions are vital to our mental health. Attempting to suppress thoughts can backfire and even diminish our sense of contentment. Acknowledging the complexity of life may be an especially fruitful path to psychological well-being.”
But how about positive emotions? Can they make us healthier? Yes, especially if we allow ourselves to express them, a separate study from Harvard found.
Individuals with great emotional vitality have a much lower risk of developing heart disease compared to the less emotionally expressive, according to Dr. Laura Kubzansky, a professor of human health and development at Harvard School of Public Health and lead author of the study report. There are mechanisms at play we don’t fully understand yet, she says, but there is evidence that positive emotions can provide some sort of “restorative biology.”
Obviously, neither positive nor negative feelings arise in a vacuum. An essential part of emotional well-being is our ability to create and maintain a conducive environment where our various needs are satisfied and our bodies, minds and souls are nourished. Not all, but a great deal of that is within our control and can benefit from our care. That in itself should give us cause to feel better.
We Need People in Our Pain
Our heightened emotions highlight how important the people around us are.
Our greatest joys are amplified by the presence of friends--weddings need guests and births occur with family in the waiting rooms. Our great adventures are made memorable when they're had with faithful friends at our side. Our successes are enjoyed more when someone enjoys them with us. And pain is certainly no different.
In your greatest griefs you want someone there to hear you. If there were someone to support you or relate with you in your pain, your pain may be a little bit more endurable. Pain needs people.
In our good emotions people act as a multiplier. In our pain, people serve as a foundation.
An Element of Experiment
While we went to great lengths to design an app in which it's safe to post such sensitive content, there is always some potential for unempathetic people.
As a user you can determine if someone can comment on your story. If you turn it off, then the only contact the world can have with you is to "support" you or click "me too." If you turn on the comment feature on your story, you can always delete someone's comment if it's unempathetic.
However, I suppose some could still make negative comments within the app or make light of Wail be creating an insincere account. This is where the experiment comes in.
Our intent is to create a safe, cathartic place to say something out loud. But we are also experimenting with the small potential for negativity with the app. Our wager is when it comes to the heaviest hardships in our life, that individuals and the community as a whole will respect that place.
How the App Works
After you sign up, you land on the main feed screen. You scroll through posts of people in your community (which is a distance that you've selected on your account page).
As you read through the posts, you can "support" the person who wrote the post by double tapping their story. Or you can click the button for "Me Too" if you suffer from or experience the same . Lastly, you can leave a comment on the post to further connect with the person who posted.
If you write your own story, you'll be asked to choose the category under which the post will appear (which is one of 5 categories: 1: pain, illness, and death, 2. Depression, 3. Addiction, 4. Guilt, Shame, and Regret, and 5. Fear). After you choose the category, write your story using less than 125 characters and click post. Lastly, find out you're not alone.
The First Post: Why WAIL
It was about 4 years ago I thought we needed a modern day Wailing Wall, like the one in Jerusalem--a place where any and all could unload some burdens anonymously. To get it out, stop bottling up our weighty fetters.
The vision was that once internet traffic arrived, just like the Wailing Wall in old Jerusalem, they would find many had come before them and they had the same burdens. Hopefully there would be something cathartic about learning that our no-one-will-understand-what-I'm-going-through burdens were the same burdens others were bearing. It never happened as a website, but I think it makes a better mobile app today.
The general idea of a wailing wall is nothing new, of course. People have always needed a place to voice their burdens with some semblance of privacy. It's why the institution of the best friend, the psychologist's couch, and church confessional have endured through the years. People aren't looking for a magical fix, only a place to say something out loud.
I'm not sure what the magic is about saying something out loud, but we don't need a psychological study to prove it. We need only look at the countless times people huff that powerful sigh, "there, I said it."
Life can be really sticky and sad. People get cancer, tell lies, get depressed, commit suicide, and every other deflating disaster in life. Some of us stack these things up in our life only to find we've built a terribly sad wall isolating us from our fellow man and woman.
But if we allow it, we can find something unusual in these isolating parts of life. We can find in a rush of supernatural relief we're not alone at the wall, nor does it isolate us. We can find that as we stand before it, we stand many others, that we're not alone. We stand with others, yelling at it, not submitting to it, and instead making it a gathering place where we come together.
The Wail blog
WAIL is a mobile app where you can anonymously unload your biggest burdens. This blog helps explain that a bit more.