FAMU alum starts foundation to battle social media addiction

Global Touch Foundation founder Jonathan Bertrand is using his voice to help end social media addiction. 
Photo credit: Jonathan Bertrand

Alumnus of Florida A&M University, Jonathan Bertrand struggled with an addiction to social media for years. He couldn’t run from his addiction because it was everywhere, and so it began to consume his life, until he did something about it.

Bertrand sought out help to battle his addiction in 2012 but was surprisingly turned away by the facility he went to. The facility did not believe he had a real problem and suggested that he was paranoid. He didn’t believe that however.

“I found myself constantly needing a rush from something that stimulated my brain,” Bertrand said.

He expressed that he knew his addiction had taken a turn for the worse. Social media allowed him to seclude himself into his own realm, isolating himself from those around him.

Without support in his fight against his social media addition, Bertrand decided to take matters into his own hands. In 2015, during his sophomore year, he started a GoFundMe account and fundraised thousands of dollars.

In December of the same year, Bertrand founded a nonprofit called The Global Touch Foundation. The foundation allowed him to alert the world of the impact of social media, in relation to mental health. He coined the term, “Social Media Awareness.”

Within a year of being established, The Global Touch Foundation’s mission was endorsed by the National Council for Behavioral Health and Bertrand was recognized as the Pioneer of Social Media Awareness.

According to a study published on Statista, in 2016, 77 percent of the United States’ population had a social media profile, which roughly estimates to 196 million people. The worldwide estimate of social media users today is 2.34 billion and is expected to grow to 2.95 billion by 2020.

Bertrand was able to spread awareness to over 26 countries, including England and Venezuela through the Global Touch Foundation.

He later founded a for-profit called The Social Media Compliance Group. Through research, he coined and trademarked his own disorder: Social Media Dependency Disorder. SMDD was birthed from Bertrand’s Triple Conscious Theory, a derivative of WEB DuBois’ Double Conscious Theory.

The Triple Conscious Theory ties into the notion that each person has three personas. These three personas include the public, private and social media persona.

Though many find Bertrand’s research to be pointless, Kristin Walker doesn’t. Walker is the founder of The Mental Health News Radio Network, a space created to eradicate the stigma for mental illnesses and garners over 2 million listeners a month.

Walker believes that social media is impacting our everyday lives and society is failing to realize it. She believes social media has not been around long enough for most people to notice the impact.

“Boundaries between personal and professional are blurred by social media,” Walker said.

“The Social Networking Effect” is the newest podcast addition to the Mental Health News Radio Network and is hosted by Bertrand, he discusses the impacts of social media.

Although he believes social media can negatively affect our mental health, Bertrand does not believe that social media is a “bad thing.”  In fact, he uses social media to further help promote social media awareness.

“It’s how you use it,” Bertrand said.

With a school textbook and course curriculum in the works, Bertrand plans to combat the negative effects of social media by educating the world of SMDD and the Triple Conscious Theory in the future.