Ever pull up a web page and feel worse after spending time on it?
Farmington Hills native Mark Ostach has, and that realization spawned the idea for mymentalspace.com, a website he hopes will soon be in use every day on college campuses, in workplaces and homes.
He made the connection between mood and web browsing as he watched friends become sad while looking at an ex-girlfriend's Facebook page. Ostach knew his own mental space was affected when he would purchase something on eBay, and then have the expenditure lead to financial issues down the road.
"People don't realize those things affect their well-being," he said. "I thought, 'Hey, it would be cool if you could manage your time and experience on-line.'."
Ostach has been an entrepreneur since launching a power washing and deck sealing business during his sophomore year at Farmington High "that is still, in a weird way, operational 12 years later." As he studied psychology and neuroscience at Albion College, he wondered how he could leverage what he was learning and still be his own boss.
After college, he signed on with Digerati, a Detroit-based Internet technology (IT) consulting and development firm. Because the company was so new, he was able to gain experience and insight into technology projects.
Ostach started looking at how to stop compulsively checking certain websites, and came up with the idea of blocking them, then having an inspirational quote pop up on the screen. Having the "bad behavior" disrupted, he said, "may just derail the impulse to get on-line and end procrastination on the Web."
Partnering with engineer Paul Loe, Ostach bootstrapped his business through Tech Town, Wayne State University's Research and Technology Park, and its Smart Start program, which helped connect him with business-building resources.
Mymentalspace.com is more than just an on-line business, though. Ostach said the company's mission is to increase awareness and education among youth on the importance of balancing their time. To that end, he is working with Oakland University students on a project that will look at how blocking sites correlates to the grades they earn.
"We're trying to challenge those youth to block Facebook and YouTube, and see how their behavior changes when they're not on those all-consuming sites," Ostach said.
The strategy applies in the workplace as well, and mymentalspace.com offers workshops not only for schools, but businesses and even churches, to make people more aware of their behavior. When people connect the amount of time they spend on-line to getting a better result – whether it's better grades or completing a project – they're more receptive to using the site, Ostach said.
He likens the technology to the Internet equivalent of seat belts, which became mandatory decades after the invention of the automobile. With young people spending up to 16 hours a day, according to some studies, in front of some kind of digital media, Ostach feels understanding how websites affect mood is critical now.
"We see this becoming a must-have for college campuses and anywhere people have accountability to get something done," he said. "We're looking to spread this throughout the nation."
To arrange a workshop or to learn more, send an email to Ostach at email@example.com