Everyone has that one friend that’s into the weird shit. I don’t mean strange drugs or alcohol (but I don’t not mean that either), but strange cultural esoterica like tarot or astrology. If you let them, they’ll swallow significant parts of your day talking about what planetary bodies are presently affecting your life, as if the trajectory of various swirling balls of fire located in distant star systems had any direct influence on whether or not Janet in accounting gives you the look around the water cooler.

Occasionally, much like a broken clock being right twice a day, your friend will stumble onto something. Some kernel of ancient wisdom about the human condition with a definitive impact on your life, reimagined, repackaged and bundled together with a heaping helping of bullshit to be sold to the willing desperate masses in search of any shred to their existence.

Like mindfulness.

But before we get into the modern take on mindfulness, let’s discuss the Meredith Corporation (MDP.NYSE).

The Meredith Corporation is a media and marketing company that announced the acquisition of Stop, Breathe and Think (SBT), a mobile mindful app with more than 17 million independent check-ins.

Here’s what their most recent press release had to say:

Stop, Breathe & Think is a personalized emotional wellness platform that helps kids and adults build the emotional strength and confidence to handle whatever comes their way. The five-star-rated app, winner of the 2017 Webby People’s Voice Award for Best Health App, is paving the way to everyday emotional wellness with bite-size personalized content and activities based on user emotions.

Personalized emotional wellness platform providing bite-sized personalized content. But you need to get through the ads first, of course. Or you can choose the two auto-renewing options of USD$9.99 a month or USD$58.99 a year.

It was co-founded by Jamie Price and Julie Campistron, and has since acquired a large following with 4.5 million downloads. Its message has been praised by users and media and the team has built the world’s largest database of real life emotional data. Is there any stranger a contradiction in terms than emotional data? Still, apparently that data proves the efficiency of the app as it relates to stress and anxiety decrease.

Before we get started, though, maybe we should define what mindfulness is.

Mindfulness is the psychological process of intentionally paying attention to your own physical, mental and emotional experiences in the present moment without judgment. You don’t worry about the future or the past. Just live your life in the moment. The only thing that matters is what’s happening right now. Philosophically, you don’t want to pair it with cannabis or psilocybin, because you’re risking a trip right down an H.P. Lovecraft inspired rabbit hole, but for day to day use, it’s pretty chill. It’ll help you get through the day.

It’s entirely possible that this app has something to offer you, but there are lots of meditation and mindfulness apps floating around in cyberspace. There’s Headspace, which is narrated by this bubbly, perpetually happy Aussie who sounds like he narrowly escaped some Heaven’s Gate cult ripoff and secretly wishes he could go back. Then there’s the Waking Up app from neuroscientist and world reknowned super-atheist Sam Harris, whose monotone voice would put anyone to sleep. But one thing both of these apps do, and do well, is teach the art of meditation.

Here’s what SBT offers:

  1. Check-ins—Users complete regular emotional check-ins and receive recommended mindfulness activities tuned to those emotions.
  2. Programs—Expert-driven, multi-day programs help users tackle issues that challenge people most, such as anxiety, sleep, stress or focus.
  3. For the Whole Family—With an additional app for children and strong presence in elementary, middle and high schools across the country, Stop, Breathe & Think helps families practice mindfulness together.
  4. Multi-platform Distribution—SBT is a leading mindfulness brand on Amazon Alexa, the first mindfulness publisher on Snapchat’s Discover page and the first mindfulness programming for kids on Hulu.

I’m not going to pretend to be a professional on meditation, but one thing it definitely does not do, is try to provide you with a roadmap through your problems. It helps to chill you out so you can approach them on your own terms, and if SBT can accomplish that much for someone, then it might be worth the hassle.

But before you download an app—any app, really—you should make sure to read the fine print. Otherwise, we might end up getting in bed with another Facebook. It’s going to be one of the defining lessons of the 21st century.

For example, from SBT’s privacy declarations:

We may disclose to third parties information that does not include Personal Information but may include certain aggregated Non-Identifying Information and Log Data for the purposes of industry analysis, research, demographic profiling, marketing, and other purposes relating to our Services. Any aggregated information shared in these contexts will not contain or be connected with your Personal Information.

Personal information being defined as the specifics of your name, address, and other details. That means any other information gathered, especially on your mental or emotional state, is fair game. And there’s something unwholesome about a company that logs your mental and emotional state, and then uses predictive algorithmic data to determine the right time to sell you products.

—Joseph Morton

Written By:

Joseph Morton

Joseph is a Vancouver-based author and journalist with both a communications degree and journalism diploma (and a few novels) under his belt. His joie de vivre is to spin difficult technical topics into more human-centric narratives. Buy him a coffee and he'll talk your ear off for hours about privacy issues, blockchain, cryptocurrency and martial arts. Don't talk to him if you're either a tomato, a bully, or if you're not a fan of either 1984 or Tender is the Night. No. You can still talk to him. Just be prepared to be told why you're wrong.

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