5 years ago, an idea changed my life…well, it was less of an idea, more of a breakdown.
One day, I was weaving my way through the tube platform, caught up in the usual busy-ness of London, when suddenly I thought of my grandpa George.
At the time, Alzheimer’s was slowly but surely consuming his mind. He was socially isolated most of the time and, undoubtedly, depressed.
However, when we were together, we could share a profound love. Gripping his hand tight, a heartfelt kiss on the cheek, just a touch could burst a heavenly light through the darkness of our situation. It was deep.
Our lives separated by the Mediterranean Sea, social media felt far too shallow to channel such a powerful connection…
Tears streaming down my face in the middle of the desolate London Underground, I knew I had to do something to support him.
So, I started developing ‘Feeliom’: A mobile app that emulates our sense of touch through technology, using vibrations [or “haptics” for the techies among us], to help us share love.
As fate would have it, he passed away before it was complete.
And I grieved…
It took some time.
I stopped working on Feeliom for a while.
But eventually, with some support from the people around me, I surrendered to the truth:
Even though my grandpa was gone, Feeliom could help many more people out there in need of love and support — it was still a purposeful pursuit.
So, I continued.
Two name changes, three team changes (yes, teams not team members), a pivot, a grant, accelerators, a move half-way around the world…and back 🙃, lots of awards and a few wonderful angel investors later: I’m still here, but only just.
Loneliness is a killer. I learned this the hard way when I faced suicidal tendencies two years ago. As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to slip into working day and night instead of having a social life. Cut off from the natural community of a workplace, I have to make extra efforts to cultivate new relationships, stay in touch with my support network and generally care for my mind.
Lockdown due to COVID-19 has demonstrated just how dangerous social isolation and loneliness can be for anyone’s mental wellbeing.
And social media doesn’t help.
If it did, how is it possible that 16–24-year-olds, its most active users, are the loneliest age group?
Yes, there’s an argument to say this is a particularly difficult, transitional phase in life, so young people have always been relatively lonely. But this hypothesis is based on a lack of data, as opposed to substantive statistics.
Let’s look at the data we do have: Research from the University of Pennsylvania shows that when people spend less time on social media, they actually feel less lonely. But you can draw your own conclusions.
Either way, an epidemic of disconnection, in the form of loneliness and depression exists — and it has given rise to an unprecedented rate of self-harm and suicide.
I will not stand by in a world where a child can look at life, and decide death is more worthwhile. This must change, and Feeliom is here to help.
The World I See
Over the past 5 years, as I have engaged with mental health on both a professional level through my work and a personal level by peering into the deepest, darkest parts of my mind; Feeliom has evolved with me.
I’m sure you would agree; we all have a mind. And so, we must all be susceptible to mental decline. But most people don’t recognise this: They just don’t want to. There is still some fear and stigma attached to the idea that they could be “crazy” both on a personal and societal level.
So, if we’re ever going to engage the masses, we need proactive solutions for people’s mental wellbeing that integrate seamlessly into our lives that combine curiosity, fun and purpose.
If we, as a species, fail to do this, we put ourselves at the mercy of each and every obstacle life throws our way. Suddenly, I’m feeling thirsty…Corona anyone? 🐒
So, how does Feeliom fit into all this?
Emotions are tough. Without love and support from the world around us, we are prone to serious dysfunction.
In this modern age of individuality, community is what we really need and it must find its feet in the world of technology.
Feeliom achieves this and more. Its unique vibration-based language makes it easy for you to:
Share emotions in a heartbeat.
Connect with your loved ones in a safe space, free of likes, followers and advertisers.
Track your mental wellbeing over time so you can spot problems before they arise.
Feeliom’s accessible nature makes it the perfect base from which to facilitate mental health support for all. Both because it is available on the iPhone app store and because it is based on a language without words…
Whether you’re depressed, have developed Alzheimer’s or ASD.
Whether you’re from England, Lebanon or Mars.
Whether you’re 8, 28 or 101 years old.
Or none of the above, Feeliom is based on what we share as human beings: Our sense of touch, the world of emotions and love.
The Wellbeing Data Revolution
No doubt, evolving community through technology is a revolution in and of itself. But I believe it’s the continuous stream of data Feeliom breeds that bears the seed of social change.
The data you share through Feeliom is powerful — and its only purpose is to better your mental wellbeing.
With the help of AI/Machine Learning, Feeliom will eventually be able to personally predict and prevent mental health problems. That means we can connect people with the right support; at the right time. From social support, our starting point, to professional help and everything in between.
There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution to mental health, and Feeliom will play an integral role in uniting the sector. I’ve already made a headstart by establishing How Mental, a community of over 100,000 mental health advocates and organisations around the planet ready for real change.
Now, the fun part.
Today, we measure social progress using Gross Domestic Product, a measure of economic output. However, as more people start using Feeliom, we will be able to aggregate data on a population level to form a statistic I call:
Gross Domestic Wellbeing or “GDW”
By being able to quantify and analyse how the UK is feeling on a continuous basis, how India or even the entire Earth is feeling, Feeliom will provide governments around the planet with a tangible metric against which they can measure societal progress or “success”. Because, how important is financial gain when everyone is living in mental pain?
In this way, we can align resources to improve population wellbeing — and empower other causes such as Black Lives Matter and the environment, which may not make much sense when our direction is GDP — but certainly do when we seek to improve GDW.
Having studied economics at university, I am beyond excited about the potential for such a revolution. When I first became an entrepreneur, it was because in previous jobs I was not encouraged to make the most of my broad skill-set and passions. I am so grateful to Feeliom for enabling me to spread my wings in a way that creates a brighter future.
So, where is Feeliom now?
It’s taken some time, but all good things come to those who wait!
Feeliom is still in its infancy. It hit the app store for iPhones just a couple of months ago. Since then, we’ve been talking to users and learning what they’d like to see next.
It’s not perfect. There are…bugs. *scream*
But that’s OK (he attempts to assuage his inner perfectionist). Our vision is clear, now it’s time to refine the product accordingly. So, how does it work?
Add Your Support Network
Easily express your feelings
Share your feeling in a heartbeat…literally.
Simply tap the heart and slide those sliders to where you feel in this present moment. And, as you do, you’ll get a combination of vibrations, sound and visual effects to match your emotion.
If you fancy it, you can tag your feeling too.
Sometimes my feeling is #reallyneedtodosomeyoga so feel free to use the tagging feature as you please!
Shout out to my effervescent friend, Maxine, who was feeling #buoyant the other day.
Respect for the emotional lexicon. 👊
Check in with friends, see how they’re doing
Select one of your friends and tap their heart to see how they’re feeling: Yes, it’s that easy.
Say you’re “thinking of them” in just a tap!
Share your current feeling with them in a heartbeat. ❤️
Share a touch — Hug, Kiss, High 5 and more, through your phone. This is my personal favourite feature.
To share a hug: Take your phone, hold it to your chest and you’ll soon be immersed in vibrations and sound that come together to form an indescribably connective experience.
Chat — because words are pretty useful too.
After all that fun I am POOPED! Fancy a little introspection? Yes, of course you do. Me too…
Track your wellbeing on the “Pulse” screen
Here you can access a history of your feelings over time. If you love getting stuck into data, you’re going to appreciate this birds-eye view of your feelings. Recording your feelings over time gives you incredible insight into your wellbeing and a tangible starting point to take actions for self-improvement.
Mine looks interesting this past week…I definitely need to get more sleep. My energy levels are lower than normal.
What we’ve done this month
So, I know I made Feeliom, but without these reminders to share my feeling, even I can forget to express myself and connect with my loved ones! Set these up and start your journey to greater self-understanding #zen
No need to wait for your friends to get on the app, start by connecting with everyone’s favourite ethereal being: Mother Earth!
She’s not just a cool gal, her feeling is actually the average of every feeling shared on Feeliom over the last 24hrs. Remember that whole Gross Domestic Wellbeing thing I was talking about? It’s already happening!
So, once the world is on Feeliom, she’s going to have a lot to say about the state of the planet. Upvoted by the community, expect lots more from her in future! Try it on iPhone now ✨
Referrals: This is a big one for us. We have lots of users who are already sharing Feeliom with their friends, but we want to make it even easier to get your loved ones on the app.
Capturing feedback: Building in an NPS score so we can capture all the data saying how much you guys obviously love Feeliom.
Graph for Analytics: We have big plans for building out our analytics feature. First, we want to make it as simple as possible to see your feelings over time. Then, we’ll start adding in lots of cool tools to help you manage your wellbeing. Here to make life easier for you guys 😘
Want to help?
Feedback: We would love for you to try out Feeliom for yourself, share it with your friends and let us know what you think! The only we can improve is if we do it together. 👫 Feeliom is only on iPhone for now so, if you’re on Android, please sign up here. We are on our way to you ASAP!
Funding: To accelerate our impact, we’re looking for investment. So, if you are an investor or if you know any Angels/VCs who invest in Seed Rounds related to healthcare/social networks, let’s connect! Please email me at email@example.com and I’d be happy to share our pitch deck.
Marketing: We’re looking to partner up with influencers to help us spread the word as well as organisations such as schools and universities that could benefit from Feeliom — so if you are or know any of the above, I’d love to hear from you! 🥰
For a long time, I’ve felt very lonely on this mission. But, there’s a difference between feeling lonely and being alone — and the truth is there’s support out there. It’s the very message Feeliom is here to share with the world.
For every one of you who has accompanied me on this journey, even if the first time is right now, as you read this blog; I thank you. Without you, I wouldn’t be here today. Your love is the reason I’m still standing.
Looking forward to the future. Embracing the present.
~ George Taktak is the founder of Feeliom and How Mental. This blog is the first in a new monthly series following his journey. A series he, realistically, should have started publishing years ago, but hey. If you are brave enough to follow his endless stream of ridiculously big-thinking and ample heart, subscribe here.