David Fryburg: You are What You See: Inspiring Kindness through Images
Dec 30, 2017
Guest: David Fryburg
Host: Preeta Bansal
Moderator: Ameeta Martin
Preeta: Good morning. Welcome to this morning's Awakin Call. We'll get started in just one moment. Good morning, good afternoon and good evening wherever you are in the world. My name is Preeta I'm really excited to be your host for our weekly global Awakin Call. Welcome and thank you for joining us. Every story is the beginning of a conversation whether it's with ourselves or with others. Across time and culture, stories have been agents of personal transformation in part because they have the power to change our hearts and our minds. The purpose of these weekly Awakin Calls is to share stories from incredible change-makers from around the globe. Through thoughtfully-guided conversations with them, our special guest speakers share their personal stories and inspire us through their actions, their experiences and their insights. Our hope is that these conversations will plant seeds for a more compassionate and service-oriented society while serving to foster our own inner transformation. Behind each of these calls is an entire team of Service Space volunteers whose invisible work allows us to hold this beautiful space. We're thankful to them and to all of our listeners for helping to co-create this space.
Today we are incredibly to have a really remarkable guest speaker with us, David Fryburg whose personal journey is not only inspiring but also is having a tremendous impact on many people. Thanks again for joining today's call. Let's start with a moment of silence to anchor ourselves into this space. 02:33 (Moment of Silence) 03:36 Thank you so much. Welcome again to our weekly Awakin Call. Today we're in conversation with Dr. David Fryburg. Here's how the call works. In just a few minutes, our moderator, Dr. Ameeta Martin, will engage in a deep dialogue with Dr. Fryburg. By the top of the hour we'll roll into audience reflections, Q&A and circle of sharing where we invite all of your reflections and questions. I've opened up the queue right now so, at any point, you can hit " *6 " on your phone and you'll be prompted when it's your turn to speak. You can also email us at Ask@servicespace.org. And you can also submit a form on your web chat if you're watching through live webcam.
So today we have a remarkable speaker, Dr. David Fryburg who's a physician and is very involved in the global movement to spread kindness and it's really exciting today that we actually have a moderator, Dr. Ameeta Martin, who herself is also a physician who is also part of this global movement to spread kindness because she's the editor of the KindSpring Newsletter that Service Space puts on. So Ameeta, thank you for being here and perhaps you can introduce Dr. Fryburg.
Ameeta: Thank you Preeta. It's definitely my pleasure to introduce Dr. David Fryburg. He's a fellow physician and scientist who, along with is eldest son Jesse in 2014 started a nonprofit, "Envision Kindness" in order to promote kindness, compassion and empathy through using images on the internet. They ground their work in science, and they're studying how you can change biology with kindness. Dr. Fryburg started in academia at the University of Virginia and went from there to the pharmaceutical industry and studied metabolic disorder, specifically diabetes and its complications and later on went on to become a consultant. He felt afterwards -- he's a self-described "news junky" -- and he saw that he was getting depressed by all these negative images that were put out by the mainstream media. That led to his current work about how the images that we're seeing create and change the way we interact with people on a daily basis. So I'd like to start by asking Dr. Fryburg how you're journey I guess began and led you to this point to create "Envision Kindness."
David: Well thanks a lot Dr. Martin. I really am very appreciative and grateful to be on a call sponsored by such a wonderful organization. I've enjoyed talking to you and your colleagues very recently, and Service Space and all the work that it does particularly for volunteers is just phenomenal, just outstanding and one of the inspiring parts that helped me on this journey. I'd also like to thank everybody who's on the call for attending because I may forget at the end to be sure to wish all of you a very happy, uplifting and enlightening New Year. So before I tell you about my journey, which I've sort of often times let the wind fill my sails and see and think about what's important, a lot of times I can prattle on, so let me just tell you what the highlights are here.
The highlights really are, if you had to walk away or if I had to stand on one leg and just tell it to you, it would be "Just as you are what you eat, you are what you see." So visual diet matters a lot and it matters no only for us as individuals personally but for everyone to think about. It also matters for what your family, friends, neighbors and community sees. The second point to remember is that being kind is baked into our biology. It is part of being alive. It's actually the default mode of our existence. So that's huge and it has then ramifications, implications for other observations or explains it, and that is people who are kind live longer. We'll talk a bit about that.
And then finally the brain is programmed to recognize it, so the brain is malleable and it goes back to that first point about visual diet. So those are the major take-away points and if I drone on, you gotta leave or you fall asleep, and that's happened before, don't feel badly because you would have gotten what's really essential. So my personal story, Dr. Martin summarized me pretty well. In many ways, I've been an academic vagabond going from one university to another and having a great time and always thought I'd grow old and die the professor. I decided to move to the pharmaceutical industry because the opportunity to do things for people on a widespread or population basis was really appealing more than at the time that I can do in my own clinic or lab.
And in the final step of this journey is being a consultant after leaving the pharmaceutical industry in which I lead teams of scientists to solve common problems in my areas of expertise. These are government, academic and industry scientists who work together to put important information in the public domain and advance science for the purpose of improving society. I wasn't in meetings in all day as I used to be, and I read the news and, as Dr. Martin mentioned, I'm a news junkie. And I got really depressed, and I'm a pretty upbeat guy, so I had to go figure that out. In asking people about it, a lot of folks told me, well, yeah, they got depressed so they stopped reading the news. They had the same thing. And the research scientist, the real nerd in me, said, “Okay, well, let’s goes read the literature."
And it turned out that negative news -- and it was measured mostly in television news, so there actually was discreet dosing or exposure to it -- could rapidly induce anxiety and stress and fear pretty quickly and pretty uniformly, so that was really impressive to me. There was much less on positive news or positive stories. So I leaned back and I thought, "Okay. I see what this is, but I was worried about the effects that it had on people. How did it affect not just me but other individual's existences, particularly for people who may be struggling in one way or another? And everybody I believe has struggles because that's what life largely is about, and it's overcoming those struggles and finding value and purpose and meaning in that in that pursuit. So I thought, "But most people are nice. Most people are good. The way that life is portrayed is skewed. It is imbalanced. So okay, how do we reinstate that balance?
and do it in a way that's not biased or minimal biased, that brings people together, and in a culture in which people don't want really want to read as much anymore and they don't want to be told what to do.”
How do we do it quickly, easily and transcend the limits of language because it was important that a person in the US could look at an image and get a similar meaning to someone in Morocco or someone in Russia or Estonia or South America. In other words, how do we make this more of a universal human dynamic and not trapped by language? So, as you've already heard, images became the centerpiece. So our goal when we set out, and I did my homework looking at a lot of wonderful organizations that promote kindness or organizations with compassion or empathy and as a footnote to that, I pull all of those pieces, those three terms, together as one because I think they're all connected. But there are wonderful organizations that are and that are trying to promote it in their own ways and how would we add or compliment this?
And one of those organizations as I've mentioned earlier is Service Space. So we decided that our focus was going to be images, that we would be gathering and then disseminating images of a diverse array of acts of kindness to provide to folks and let them interpret them, assimilate them and go on their way for the day. So if you will, a regular dosing. And the dosing by the way had to be very regular because every day each of us is exposed to, buffeted by, a variety of inputs, right? You get up in the morning and you look on the newspaper or television or some other source and you're getting input and then there are other pieces that may be personal inputs that go to our day and those, when all integrated together, create our state of being. So we could show images maybe once a week. We could show them once a month, but that wouldn't be adequate. Let me pause there and see, Dr. Martin, if you have any questions because I can keep going, unfortunately, for a long time.
Ameeta: Well, what I found really interesting is how images as you've said create this positivity, but when I went to your website, you also create positivity by encouraging people to take positive images themselves and since you like to provide this regular, visual diet of positive images, it's obviously difficult for just you and your team alone to come up with these many, many images to help promote kindness, so what I really loved was the idea of you having video contests and then seeing how the ripples of positivity by asking students to take these kind images and submit them, how that creates this massive ripple of kindness in these student photographers around the world that are taking these images as well. So can you talk to us a little bit about how you got this idea of these video contests that you use on your website, these photo contests and then we'll go on specifically to talk about one video that you talked to me about that really showed the power of this rippling.
David: Sure. So for folks on the phone, I love photography. I have since I was 6-years of age and I actually found that when I did some solo exhibits in the last few years that what I really loved about photography is that it caused me to look more at the world than I otherwise would. If I'm taking a picture of something and then I'm working on it now on a computer rather than in a darkroom as I would years ago, it makes me think about relationships to the elements and really think about that moment in which that photograph was taken. So the original idea came as that the power both for conveying the visual but also for people to process it, to create, would get them to look more. And if everyone on the phone would lean back and reflect, there are lots of acts of kindness that you see every day, but we don't necessarily truly see them. We don't stop and admire them because they're usually fleeting, and maybe perhaps taken for granted or distracted by other things going on. So when we looked at what was available on the web images that were like this, there were sparse and really nice but heroic things like a waitress who was given a tip of a thousand dollars or someone who donated a kidney or another person who ran into a burning building to save someone else.
And while they are great and wonderful acts, what really thought about was our prototypical average guy, I call him "Joe" who may not be able to relate to that and that in order to deliver fresh and engaging content and do it on a daily basis, there was going to be a huge demand for a lot of this kind of content. and what I"m calling content are still and video images but we also have included artwork in there. So we wanted to have enough of a library to build that and also engage people in the process. So my son and I were discussing, we were struggling at first because it was very difficult to get material and I didn't want it to be just my own, and even if it was, I would never be able to provide enough to make this work. So we thought, "Well what if we had a contest and we did it for youth?"
So we set it for schools, for high school and college in the county that we live in in Connecticut and what we would do is have the students make short, humorous or lighthearted videos about kindness, and as long it was G Rated, the rest was up to them. And what we got were some amazing pieces. There were some really nice heartfelt videos and we also had incorporated a path that included public voting. And the reason for doing public voting for selecting finalists was to have the students go out and campaign for their films, and by campaigning for their films with their friends and relatives and neighbors, they themselves would be championing kindness and getting these folks to look at images or stories, all fictional, about kindness. From the finalists, just as a footnote, the winners were selected by a prominent panel of judges. So this is the first contest that we ran. It was a pilot to see what it would be like, and it was really quite amazing. Several thousand people ended up voting on the 19 films that were submitted, and then what media you were referring to was, there was one film in which they had the entire school body go out onto the football field and spell the words "Be Kind" like a marching band. When I saw that, I leaned back and I went, "Wow. You just made my day." And as I'm feeling good about the whole thing, I then leaned back and thought, "Okay, well what happened when they went back into school, and that's where things really got transformational.
We decided to survey. We couldn't survey all of them, but we surveyed the students and teachers who participated in each of the schools in the county, and teachers were writing, "School spirit is soaring. Students are acting nicer to each other." The teachers were much happier. Students were complementing one another. And then there were references to independent volunteer efforts that the students were doing, and these independent volunteer efforts included one student collecting coloring books for people with cancer, another student starting a clean water project in a developing country. And unbeknownst to you all on the phone, there was no content in the films that had anything to do with that. This is what was inside these students. It was organic. It was natural and I loved it because each of us is going to be kind in our own ways.
We may may be kind people in general, but the way that it manifests can be different. And so the lowest energy most effective ways to let what bubbles up naturally, what is meaningful to someone, and when they were writing about those kids doing that, it was tremendous. So spurred on by the success of the first contest, we got some grant money and we've run several other. What we expanded to is a similar contest statewide in Connecticut because we were getting notes from people from teachers around the state asking could they participate in the county contest, and that one just grew, same kind of outcome. And then most recently we've just completed what has turned into an international still-photography contest, and that one was open to adults. It wasn't for students, and there were over 1500 submissions from more than 630 photographers in 80 countries.
We've gotten submissions from places like Azerbaijan and Iran as well as the US and Russian the Ukraine and countries in Latin America and other countries in the east and a lot from the Philippines and India in particular represented almost 30 percent of the submissions. Beautiful, wonderful images. And then finally we had run a college photography contest which I should mention and that preceded the last one. The reason that it's worth mentioning is we've also surveyed the participants again afterwards, and we're asking them "Okay, we'll first how could we do this better? Did you like participating?" All that kind of stuff. And then we asked, "How did it make you feel? How did it make you feel looking at other people's images?" trying to really get a handle on, "Does this matter?" because we could go through life doing a lot of things but did it really matter? Did it help somebody? Did it make a difference in someone's day? And again, similar responses, but the one that stuck with me the most was a student photographer who wrote in response to "How did participating make you feel?" He or she wrote, "It let me look at society through a lens of compassion and grace."
And when I read that, I was like, "Okay there's something that's really powerful in the programmatic aspect. So we're continuing to do these programs framed as contests and looking at them in different formats because it's win/win across the board, and then with that content we then take it back and we'll share it with the wider public. So that was a really important part. And as we were continuing this, what is a simple idea but at the time, and Dr. Martin, did I answer your question?
Ameeta: Yeah. No, that was beautiful. It was how not just the images themselves just viewing them encourages change and transformation but actually the taking how that induces so much change and transformation as well because, like you say, you're seeing things from a completely different lens.
David: Absolutely. And also the kids happened to like it because they like a little bit of competition and it also is a way for many students to compete with other schools. The prizes, by the way, which I didn't mention, in the case of the student competitions went back to the schools for arts education. So the intent was to have win/win across the board. The schools benefit, the teachers benefit, the students benefit and here the students could compete against other schools where, if they're not on an athletic team, which would usually be the case, or occasionally an academic team, they would never be able to do that. So they seemed to gravitate towards that remarkably well.
What we set out to do, and encouraged by my son Jesse who is very much into it, and because I've liked to do research was, "Okay what do we know? What can we document about the effect of viewing the images that that can have on people?" So what we did is we set out to do an experiment, or study better said, and the study was "How do images affect people and can we examine how those compare to images of acts of kindness?" So it was an internet-based study. There were 400 people who were involved. A hundred people were assigned randomly to one of four groups. One group saw only negative images. 30:08 So destruction, death, violence. Another group saw a neutral images - towels, door knobs, light switches. Another group saw what were called positive image - the typical puppies in a basket, or bunnies with flowers, or a mother and child which we might have called more of an envision image. Or child exhilarated white water rafting. And those three groups all came from a standard set that psychologists had used for years.
By the way we had put together a scientific advisory board to help us because while I'm an endocrinologist, and done a lot of human based research, I didn't know anything about psychology and psychology research. So those three groups were shown images from set that psychologists have used and then a fourth group were envision images and these aren't so pretty. An example is a woman in distress on a darkened stairwell being comforted by a police officer. A sea of shaven heads with one face looking up the camera and that young man was going for chemotherapy and his friends had shaven their heads in support of him. An image shot from the back of a young man escorting two elderly women to their car. There was a little bit of text that was associated with each of the images. The people who participated in the study filled out questionnaires about how they felt and they rated themselves on a variety of parameters all from published psychological studies, and testing vehicles questionnaires, and they saw twenty images of the class they were assigned to and then they repeated the questionnaires.
So people who saw the negative images their moods (they were pretty upbeat when they started the study) feel like a rock. There was an increase or worsening of sadness and anger and fear - the negative emotions that were assessed; as well as the decrease, as you'd expect, in joy, optimism and gratitude. The people who saw the neutral images, they looked like a slight version of the negative group - they got a little bit less joyful and a bit more sad. The people who saw positive images, they got more joyous, they got happier, they were feeling better. The folks who saw the kindness images (they are images that are not pretty like the positives) they had about double the effect or double the response in joy, in optimism, in gratitude, in love, in compassion than those that saw the positive images.
For those who may be asking - were they statistically separable- if that's a question that's meaningful, the answer is "yes". The mathematics showed that their responses are really very different to a robust scientific analysis. A friend of mine who's a professional statistician had done the analyses. Taken together, it said something that was really really remarkable that people are programmed that they can respond to this and this even though it's a struggle, like the one the woman who is in distress on the dark stairwell, they respond to the resolution or the attempted resolution of her problem. They respond to them connecting in this image. And that was really really remarkable. It tied together with a bunch of other things. We saw the same thing in almost all of the scoring by the way compassion gratitude. It was really quite clear how much more impact the images of kindness had than even the typical go-to for folks like kittens or in this case we used puppies in a basket.
Ameeta : Let's expand a little bit more on the science of kindness. You know we are all hardwired for kindness but yet we're also hardwired where negative things affect us much more for self-preservation than positive things. So if negative images affect our behavior like five to one that they saying certain research study then how can we combat our tendency to focus on these negative images by seeing only a few positive images I mean don't we have to have an incredible overload of positive images to counteract our innate, I guess preference, to focus on the negativity.
David: That's a fabulous question. And I don't fully know the answer to it because we're doing that work now is understanding how do you, you know, what does it take. There are a couple of things that give me pause or at least encourage me. The point that you said is spot on - we are programmed to react to something negative and remember it about 5 or 10 fold to 1. A nice example that someone told me although I've never found it printed anywhere or written down. But people can really relate to this themselves is - on Trip Advisor a negative review of let's say a hotel, requires at least five if not ten positive reviews to outweigh it. And so one can look to their own experience to say yeah you know it's like OK if I see something negative, so it doesn't even have to be something fearful, it's just even that negative. So I don't know yet what that effective counter-balance is.
The encouraging piece is that we are naturally born kind. If you look at studies of toddlers, and even an investigator by the name of Paul Bloom at Yale, claims infants but even experiments in toddler studies where the investigator drops a pen and they watch what the toddler does usually the responses to go pick it up and hand it back to the investigator. People should reflect on this from their own vantage points, but there's a common understanding that children were born kind. When I understood that literature that then said that the fault mode for how we are programmed is to be kind. That gives an edge to how do you invigorate someone and inspire them to be kind and have that effect. While we don't know what that balance is, atleast to try to restore it to some degree. And to achieve something more. And then once people start to see images of kindness, there are studies not ours, that their willingness to volunteer & to do other kind acts or think positively increases. And I'm sure that folks on the phone are familiar with this notion of the ripple of kindness. So hate and anger you know would have its own ripple but kindness does too and so the more kindness that we can propagate, the more that this becomes reinforced. So it's not just looking at images anymore, it's doing. So our Joe sees some images and maybe he doesn't either act out of anger. Or he actually goes and so he doesn't do something unkind or he actually goes and does something kind and then that makes him feel good and that reinforces what he does. So in fact it is not just about looking at images but images that help trigger certain behaviors and interactions which become reinforcing and multiplicative. And that's when it gets really cool because if we think about like how a virus might spread in a population, think about it medically right. This is epidemiological kind of approach to providing and stimulating kindness. It is not necessarily "be all" and "end all" but it may be, or appears to be, a nice trigger to get things started and to help maintain an even disposition.
Ameeta: So basically trying to create a dopamine high by doing good things rather than bad things to create that same feeling.
David: Absolutely and whether there are endorphins related to this, we don't know necessarily the biology as you were discussing the other day oxytocin has been implicated. But there are a variety of events that occur, internally, that are in response to either seeing, just even observing, kindness and then doing it. The old aphorism "An act of kindness benefits the giver more than the receiver" really hit home. And so if we knew that the biology, if the default programming is towards being altruistic and by the way many others have written about it over the years and I sort of stumbled into it and because of my profession and interest, I became more and more interested in the biology of this stuff. It went from just balancing what people see to understanding that this is the way we were born, this is the way most species function. Ian Wilson from Harvard write about how ants have to show altruism. There are experiments in rats and you could see it in dogs and other animals. It is a quality of living organisms, not just humans, but a quality of living organisms to have altruism. There is a book about a fellow in George Pricewood who is a geneticist who wrote about the genetics of altruism.
So that then says a lot. There were a reasonable number of indicators that said that this is very important for humans. Then I came across something I never learned in medical school. That was a series of observations that people who volunteer on a regular basis, have death rates that are 20-40% lower than those who don't. This is a complex observation because it was done under an epidemiological survey meaning they are following a population of people for a variety of things and you are asking a lot of questions and one of the questions is about "Do you volunteer? and if so how many hours a week do you volunteer?" So there are a lot of things going on at the same time as that person is moving through life but multiple studies have asked this question and they all show this incredible reduction in mortality. And there are very few things that cause death rates to drop like that. What comes to mind for me are clean water, vaccinations, and antibiotics in certain circumstances. That is really very impressive. And to be fully forthright, there have been some interventional studies, where they put people in volunteer programs and looked at them. They weren't able to look at death rates as that requires very very large numbers but there wasn't a convincing effect.
However when you take all this together, it makes sense. And Darwin actually had written about this centuries ago where he wrote that while survival of the fittest for single organism is important, altruism is necessary for a group to survive because members of the group must sacrifice for one another in order for the group or species to survive. That was huge for me because again it was another indicator that biology is driven this way and it is driven that way for very deliberate purposes and then it has an effect to help people. And if people are wondering about how does kindness help, I think it comes down to stress reduction.
Ameeta: So has this work in kindness affected how you view traditional medicine, how it is practiced is the West? Do you think physicians need to treat patients differently, based on this work?
David: It's another great question. I think it huge implications, not just for everyday life but also for medicine. I had always thought from years ago, before I ever got into this, that the connection with the patient, talking to them and really connecting and doing a meaningful physical examination was critical. There was always something very special about it. I don't practice medicine and seeing patients anymore but from talks with friends and others I have spoken to are under more and more pressure to get things done fill out forms and do it in record time that it can't possibly sustain that interaction.
Ameeta: I feel the entire hands on part of medicine has substantially decreased with time. Like you said, it is much more about paperwork but it is also much more about testing. There is much more of a de-emphasis on the physical exam because you miss so much and so just ordering tests. I really feel the emphasis from the hands-on and the connection is disappearing from medicine altogether.
David: Sure, and there are multiple reasons for that too including justifying a diagnosis and keeping on time.
So I think it has implications in a lot of different ways and from our own small vantage point, we are interested in allowing people to see the material, get inspired and do what they think is best and respond in whatever ways that are unique to them. Obviously, you know, pro-social positive ways.
One of the things is how does all this really work. It came up or bubbled up for me in a conversation I had with a fellow who founded what are called the Happiness Clubs. There are about a 100 of them around the world. They were started by a fellow in Fairfield, Connecticut, Lionel Ketchian, who is self educated in many ways and decided to want people to have happier lives. So he provided a framework for people to independently start Happiness Clubs. There is no money involved, nothing changes hands. It is really just a very noble thing and he disseminates information and the individual clubs run their own.
David: So i had the opportunity to meet Lionel, about a year and change ago, and we got into a lot of conversations. He is a wonderful man. And he invited me to speak at his Happiness Club. And he said to me " Well, look , you know David, i know you like to talk about kindness, but, what about happiness? Coz this is a Happiness Club; you gotta talk about happiness. " And so we got into a discussion about what came first. Was it kindness that drives happiness? because people who are kinder tend to me more happy. Or happiness that allows people to be kind?. And in the to-and-fro , which was all friendly, but serious, in that way; it occurred to me that , that there actually wasn't a straight line here. Which came first, in this chicken and egg kind of thing. But rather , it was a circle. And that, at the centre of the circle, that happiness allows for kindness to manifest, and kindness makes people happier, just worked. But i was " ok - so why?". " If that is the case, why is it?".
And it brought me to readings of Abraham Maslow and Victor Frankl. And for those of you, who haven't read them; Maslow had a pyramid of human necessity and in his pyramid, the achievement of meaning and self-actualisation is essentially i believe the peak, and Victor Frankl, who was a survivor of Auschwitz; spoke about meaning and what he developed was Logotherapy. Essentially meaning-therapy. That man's quest, humanity's quest is for achievement of meaning.
And so I take that back to kindness and happiness etc. And we discern the differences ; psychologist use the terms- hedonistic happiness; where somebody is happy because they are satisfying themselves. And then there is another quality called the eudaimonic happiness. No - i did not make up these terms! Eudaimonic happiness is essentially because you are giving to others. It is outside or transcends the self as the individual. And the key part here was the derivation of meaning and value. And to work backwards from there or forwards, is that kindness using that connects people. When we do something thinking about one another, or think about that act, we are connecting to that other person. When we connect to that other person, we then have created a bridge. And that person or persons, or living beings - it could be an animal or a pet. I think all i would say or most living being would experience this. But just staying with humans; that connection creates value. Means "i am valued - because look at what this person is doing." or " i have achieved value because i have connected with this other person." That value or purpose gives meaning. It addresses this incredible drive, the need for achievement of meaning. That most people i would say seek. And so kindness and being grateful; all these things fit together because they allow for the achievement of meaning.
And the corollary observations to this is, that people like volunteers, people who are in social groups, like religious groups, or Rotary or Lions clubs, Masons - a variety of wonderful groups, that they also have better health and lower mortality rates than the general population. And related to that on the other side, is why social isolation, most extreme if you are in prison; but less so in a perhaps in an elderly person or someone who is disabled and can't get out of their apartment; is so devastating to mental and physical health. So this whole thing that i come back to fits together for me - from kindness creates connections. It makes people happy, because they derive meaning. And if they can get this eudaimonic type of happiness, and they are doing for others, it allows for more kindness to be manifested. Which is to help settle my dialog with Lionel. So let me stop there , because i know you have questions , that there may be questions - and i welcome them.
Ameeta: I just wanted to wrap this up and go to the very beginning. We kind of started with; you are what you see in this concept of visual diet. And the purpose obviously of your organisation, Envision Kindness , is to provide much more this good visual diet, this positive visual diet to people. So i guess i wanted to ask you " How many people , i guess , are you reaching through Envision Kindness? and what do you feel like you can do to promote even more positive images, to the mainstream media?"
David: Great question again. Our major mode is through social. We have a modest following right now on Facebook. And Instagram as well on Twitter. But we know that actually by looking at our stats - that our images have been viewed by about 1.2 million times. Over the course of the year. And so we are trying to do, is expand adwords and continue that. The problem with social unfortunately is that - there is just so much content out there. And so that becomes a bit of a struggle. And what we are trying to do is provide interesting engaging material that inspires people. And just keep working incrementally. We have some other programs that we are working on as in different ways of reaching out and those will be out in probably in the next few months.
Ameeta: Great! Thank you so much Dr. Fryburg. Thank you for your amazing clarity of both vision and expression. You've articulated so beautifully both psychological physiological medical aspects of kindness and just the beauty of seeing these images and the ripples they generate. I have a number of questions about some point I'll take host prerogative, but we do have a couple callers in the queue so I will first turn to the queue. Go ahead please.
Amit: Hello my name is Amit. I am dialing in from Washington D.C. Dr. Freiburg really appreciate your taking the time to share your research your work with all of us today. You know there are, as you said, there are massive implications in so many areas whether it might be medicine, education, even the prison system, for the work that you're doing but what I'm really curious is what's been the impact to you as an individual? How has this work transformed you? Obviously, you know engaging yourself deeply in that imagery videos and this type of research how that affected you or your personal relationships. And then as a follow up you know how does this translate to the world offline for people?
David: Thanks for your comments and the question.
For me it's been a labor of love. It's a tremendous amount of effort that it requires because we are in a territory where there isn't really a model to follow. And so there have been lots of challenges. But we've learned. And it just inspires me about the beauty of being human. So in one sense it has had a lot of challenges. And in another sense it has brought me back to what I love about medicine and how we are human and how our spirits connect and what life is about. And each of us has our own legacy to leave, everyone I believe has a legacy. And it isn't about an individual, it's about leaving it better than we found it. It's not about remembering a name. It's about those who come after us. So for me it's very satisfying in that way because what my goal is is to build this into its own self-sustaining entity where it becomes the usual, the rote, and how we can get people to treat each other better collaborate more and cooperate.
I'm sorry you had a second part I hope that answered it and there was a second part to your question
Amit: Thank you for that. The second part was how can this putting positive imagery online and we are sharing some of this as well, but how do we translate it offline? I'm curious are there any practices that you do so that way as a listener - how can I take this to my work place or how can I take this to my school or whatever it may be?
David: So that's what we're going to be refining in the next few months. If you're asking about some suggestions, or not just allow it to bubble up but you know give some direction? Is that what you mean?
David: So we're going to be working towards that end, but in a very gentle way. Again what I don't want to do is preclude all the wonderful things that you might want to do or come up with. But as you're suggesting, people need some guidance. Or could benefit from it.
Ameeta: Thank you thank so much and thanks for the question. Dr. Fryburg, I'm going to take a few moments to ask some questions of my prerogative. Your organization, I love the way you crowdsourced, in essence the creation of these photographs and you have created a certain movement. At one point I think you talked about the international photography contest where you had submissions from about eighty countries around the world. I guess I am curious as to how you work with schools? Do you work formally through the school system, with individual teachers or how you get involved with working with particular school.
I ask that because service space has many people with them that do a lot of different types of work with positive news, with kindness, other kinds of practices & school and they seem to be a little you know ad hoc informal based on connections with individual teachers. And I wonder how you did it in such a systematic way through the state of Connecticut.
David: That was actually a lot of legwork. We have assembled a list of Arts teachers, System principals, Guidance counselors etc that were in the state of Connecticut. And got a lot of help from organizations across the state. People were wonderful. There's for example, an Association of Arts Teachers in Connecticut, there's an Association of Boards of Education, of Supervisors of a variety, and we reach out to all of them. Many of them shared our announcement of the contest. And so we wanted to do is - our real interest is building bridges and providing a service for them to see that it's a service to them. That they're not doing Envision a favor, this is all going to benefit their school systems and so many people responded positively to it.
Ameeta: So you contact the individual teachers through a lot of leg work. It wasn't kind of formally through the school system or the school board.
David: We've we did it in all directions. So we went to the primary folks that were involved because the kids need to get organized and so they needed a champion. And the champion would be in the form of the teacher, to organize it. So many teachers have written to us asking when are we doing the next contest. Others had written "We're not waiting for a contest anymore, we're just going to put this in our curriculum". It is sort of inch by inch, but we went from both directions from the teachers and then also from people who could disseminate more broadly.
Ameeta: Great! You know you come to us with obviously a wonderful background in medicine and science and I'm wondering you started the caller I think talking about how we need to see these images almost on a regular dosing, that it has to be very regular because every day we are exposed to and buffeted by so many different inputs. I wonder kind, as you've done some of these follow-up studies, as you kind of followed the results of some of your efforts, do you get a sense of some repeat players? Do you have regular photographers that become part of your informal network of people who contribute images, or is this contest kind of one-off thing? You have said how much people stay in the loop after a given engagement?
David: We haven't done enough repeating to answer that fully, but we're getting there. So the international contest was different than the college student - we focused on photojournalism in photography students who are in college. The other contest format was high school and college video. So when we went from our county to Connecticut, about half of the participants from the first came onto the second. And that's about the best I can give you as an answer but we have to continue to develop that.
Ameeta: So is there an opportunity for these people, outside of these contests to continue to contribute images/videos?
David: We welcome them! There's a submission portion, (thank you for asking that) on our website, people can spontaneously submit if they want. We take a single Still, we take Video, we take a series of stills, it's set up for that. And then we publish it and then what we like to do is we always credit huge pieces crediting the photographer/author who made this and we then share on social. So the whole model is to disseminate. It we held it close, it wouldn't benefit anyone. So we disseminate as much as possible and under certain circumstances we will also, if the piece is particularly meaningful or impactful, we will promote it. We will spend money to promote it.
Preeta: Let me take a caller in the queue first. Go ahead, please.
Wendy: Hi, this is Wendy. David, you and I know each other just a bit and I just have to tell you I was just hanging on every word because it was so clear and articulate from beginning to end. So thank you. So I have a question regarding negative images that are thrown in our face on a daily basis. But I was just at the movies, and the three trailers, each one just more horrendous than the next. And I was sick to my stomach -- the violence, the killing, the horror film, and yet people seek this out. Can you talk a little bit about our choices, some peoples', to actually invite that kind of negativity in?
David: Wendy, first, thank you for calling in, and it's lovely to hear from you again. I'm not an expert in that piece, in terms of entertainment world. One of our SAB members, Doug Gentile, our Scientific Advisory Board, is a professor of psychology at Iowa State, and he and others -- Craig Anderson -- have looked at a related field, related to entertainment and video games and looked at how they can become, they can draw people in. They are repetitive. They can increase violence and agitation or, a better word I think is said is "aggression." So I think it feeds into a biology the same way we crave certain other things, but beyond that I'm probably not expert enough to talk to it more.
Wendy; I love the crowd funding, the collaboration, the connectivity. I mean, just the contest itself then mirrors so many other values that people get to do it together and that yearning for connectivity and community. Thank you so much.
David: Thank you.
Preeta: Ameeta, did you want to go ahead?
Ameeta: I just wanted to ask, have you found any research that says if you give positive images like first thing in the morning when people get up that it may counter some of the negative images that they get later in the day and that they change their interaction with others during the day by starting off with positive images first thing in the morning.
David: Another great question. Don't know yet. That'll be "stay tuned." We're getting into, actually as we're discussing the principles of what our pharmacology, right, for dosing drugs, for medications, and what time of day do you do it and how often do you have to do it and what's the total dose in any period of time and how long does the effect last, right, is another important question. So we give Joe some images in the morning and then understand the decay of the effect. So these are really great questions. There's a lot of stuff to be done here. We have to apply for NIH funding or that kind of level to get all of this work done. But they're really important questions.
Preeta: I love the way both of you are approaching this from a physician's lens of minimum-effective dosing, etc. I'm not sure, do we have another caller in the queue? I'm just going to go to the next person. Go ahead please.
Kozo: Hi Dr. Fryburg. Thank you for all the work that you're putting out there and also the research behind it. I think a lot of the people on this call are kind of sensed into how kindness ripples, and it's great to have the research behind it. I have a question, and I'm just kind of pushing an edge here. I really value the work that you're doing, but I just want to see some of maybe the areas that need more research. That has to do with -- I was on a healing journey and I came across this quote. You now how you started the call with "We are what we eat." And this quote said, "That's not actually true. What's true is that you are what you digest." And that really shifted things for me. So I'm wondering also in terms of images and content, there's a piece where it's not so much "you are what you surround yourself with" but "you are what comes inside." I think of -- you mentioned Viktor Frankl. Frankl said, "You have the power to discern, to see these things that are happening in front of you." And he talks about having this bowl of just disgusting soup, and then he made it into something that was going to nourish him. So I'm wondering how maybe you can be placed, like the previous caller, like Wendy said, in this environment where you're being bombarded with negative images but you can have some sort of internal control, some sort of equanimity, some sort of -- call it a filter -- that allows that not to be digested.
David: I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name sir.
Kozo. Oh sorry. My name is Kozo. I'm calling in from Cupertino, California.
David: Thanks Kozo. It's a very valid point in the ability to transcend or allow that material in. Some of the problem with that or the limitations is that -- and if we talk about it from food, right -- it is what you digest and -- literally -- what your intestines can break down and then absorb. But if I fed you a diet that was, if you remember, there was a film, I'm trying to remember the name, a fellow who just ate McDonald's for...
Kozo: Oh yes. Supersize Me.
David: Yes, that's right. In it, right, if you had only that diet, irrespective of what your intestines are going be like, maybe you'd have some buffering to its full effects, but you'd still be significantly influenced by it. So, while I agree with you that there's an internal ability to modulate this, we're also working on a very, very basic level in how the brain responds to these things.
David: One could look at it as there are two levels here. Most people, I think, who are caught up, who are running from one thing to another, they're internalizing a lot of material because they don't have the time to digest.
Kozo: Yes. I'm thinking more in terms of -- funny I'm saying this, because I'm anti-vaccine, but not so much flooding with negative images but having exposure to negative images and then not reacting to those negative images occasionally in small amounts, like a vaccine that will protect. You know, my father-in-law is a Chinese medicine doctor, and one of his patients drank only bottled water and he told this guy for years, "That's not good, because your body has an immune system and it needs to stay fit. So if you drink only bottled water, then your immune system kind of like goes into lapse" So sure enough this guy traveled to Asia and then he got super sick because he couldn't get clean bottled water. So just like small samplings of -- not negative images but real, reality of what the world is like -- to protect you, to keep your system protected from when you do get exposure unknowingly, like Wendy when she went to the movies.
David: I hear the point. I don't have information to help enlighten that at all. But these are a lot of things for us to learn.
Kozo: Yes. It's just a conversation. I'm just curious. Thank you. Like I said, the bottom line is, thank you for your work and for what you're putting out there. I was just on your website. It's beautiful.
David: Thank you Kozo.
Preeta: Thank you. So Dr. Fryburg, so many times when people talk about acts of kindness and generosity, it comes across to people that are left-brain dominant like scientists and physicians as kind quaint or cute or sweet. I wonder if, in your day job, in the pharmaceutical industry and academia, among scientists, among physicians, how receptive are you finding them to be to how you're expending your energies and the kinds of research that you're starting to probe.
David: My selection or my group is, there's some bias to it because their friends or colleagues are like me, but generally there's a lot of interest in it. One of our board members is actually the... I was a third-year medical student, he was my resident, and extremely caring, beyond his incredible talent as a physician, extremely caring, enthusiastic supporter of this kind of work. So there's also a greater recognition lately in years past for increasing empathy in the clinical circumstance, and so how it'll get translated? I don't have enough in experience to that, but I hope that we'll see within the next year or two.
Preeta: Wow. Fabulous. Well one of the things we like to ask all of our guests as a closing question is how can we as a broad, global ecosystem, the Service-Space Community, how can we best support or amplify your work?
David: Well, I really appreciate that question. I think that it would help in that mission by following on social or getting our newsletter to be more regular and subscribing and encouraging others to do that. What you're doing in that, what people are doing in that process, is they are beginning to participate. So they know they get their wonderful emails, email missives from Service Space, and I don't ever want to clutter somebody's inbox, but 1:23:16 following it on social, looking at the images, getting other people to look at them, and they don't have to be ours. See kindness, show it to others. This will change people, and without a lecture, without anything more than, "Isn't that wonderful?" That would be really gratifying because that's why I am doing this.
Preeta: Well thank you so much for your remarkable work. As I said, you have a rare clarity both of vision and also of expression which probably manifests in your work as a photographer as well I imagine. So I'm looking forward to seeing some of your work in that area. 1:24:02 Just to summarize some of your points, you talked about just as you are what you eat, we are what we see and that visual diet matters. You talked about how being kind is built into the default mode of our existence, and it's baked into our very being as people. And you talked about how the brain is programmed to recognize kindness and to be malleable in response to it. So those are all beautiful points to recognize, to know and to act upon, and -- as you said -- it's not just seeing, but it's also doing and behaving in a certain manner. 1:24:40 So thank you for that inspiration. Thank you for your insightful words and your work. We like to close these calls with a moment of silence, too and then we'll end with a final gratitude.
David: If I may, I really appreciate the invitation. I appreciate your hosting it and moderating and everyone who participated in the call. And again, I want to wish everyone a very Happy New Year!