Ziarekenya Smith isn’t like many people who spent their 20s partying, traveling and living a carefree life. Instead, he’s buckled down for the last six years in a quiet workroom designing and building a project to reduce negative stigmas and enhance transparency and understanding in online interaction.
At 30 years old, from Detroit, MI, Ziarekenya Smith is the Founder of Inpathy: a Detroit-based tech company focused on revolutionizing how people use social media by creating a new era of social media that inspires transparency, normalizes moods, and recreates the human experience.
What is Inpathy?
In an interview with The Black Wall Street Times, Smith explained how he birthed the idea and what led him on this journey.
“Inpathy came to my mind because we need to create a more enjoyable, balanced, human-centered and transparent platform,” Smith said.
He explained how the idea for the new social media app came about after realizing how negative social media can be to our mental well-being. He said it isn’t normal for us to be conditioned to only share positive stories and that the algorithms on the websites and apps don’t encourage us to authentically share our actual moods.
“Let’s be able to express ourselves because that’s the part we haven’t really figured out yet. Let’s show people this is normal.”
Social media’s negative effects on mental wellbeing
According to McLean Harvard Medical School Affiliate social media has a reinforcing nature that “activates the brain’s reward center by releasing dopamine, a “feel-good chemical” linked to pleasurable activities such as sex, food, and social interaction.” The platforms are designed to be addictive and can increase anxiety, depression and other mental health concerns. It also encourages us to compare our lives with others, which can lead to feelings of jealousy that worsen depression.
With 69% of adults and 81% of teens using social media, based on data from the Pew Research Center, a large majority of Americans are at risk for these debilitating mental health issues.
“A reporter told me she doesn’t really share her down moments on social media because if she does her family will think something’s wrong. We can’t have bad moments without people thinking something’s wrong with us,” he added.
Smith said that the idea that we should only share happy moments represents a dark time in our society. That’s where Inpathy comes in. The company seeks to revolutionize how people use social media by showing people it’s okay to express themselves and be themselves.
“People may be thinking Inpathy is a mental health app— it’s not. It’s a human app that embodies the human experience,” Smith said.
Ziarekenya Smith’s journey to Inpathy
Although Smith’s been working on the app for six years, it wasn’t the route many of his peers expected him to take.
Founder Ziarekenya Smith holds a bachelor’s degree in Digital Art & Design and graduated as an Advance Achiever at Full Sail University. But while his peers enjoyed the amenities surrounding the Orlando, Fl. area, Smith was laser-focused on his work.
“I stayed 10 or 20 minutes from Disney World and an hour or 2 away from Universal Studios…But that didn’t really phase my mind. It was always about the craft.”
Smith said the sacrifices his mother made to help him get to the university empowered him to pay forward the debt he owed.
Ziarekenya won 6 Adobe Design Achievement Awards from (2011-2014) in 4 different categories: Web and Application Design, Print Communication, Live-Action and Illustration. His work has been featured on recognizable media platforms such as Slam Magazine, Sports Illustrated, Mayweather Promotions, Complex, Nice Kicks, Yahoo Sports, Bleacher Report, HYPEBEAST, Finish Line, Full Sail University’s Publication, Adobe, Marco, and Branding Mag.
On top of that, before Ziarekenya got into entrepreneurship, he freelanced for well-established companies around the world like Nike, Jordan Brand, Tencent 腾讯, Bleacher Report, Team Lebron, Limitless Creative Co, as well as startups and more. Many of his peers expected him to land a corporate job making graphics and other designs for high-profile athletic teams.
“I experienced a lot of high success at a very early age,” Smith said. But he realized that wasn’t where his happiness lied. He said he came to a crossroad once he approached graduation.
Man on a mission
“I can’t see myself doing this anymore.” Smith said he eventually turned down working in an industry that paid six figures because he wanted to create projects that would make an impact on society.
“I need to wake up every single day knowing that I’m here for a purpose. The two greatest moments in your life are when you’re born and when you realize why you were born. I need to know why I’m here. I just can’t think i’m doing work, paying bills, and recycle. That’s so dark.”
So after graduation he realized even at the peak of his success during college there was no empathy in any of his work.
“Five to 10 years from now I didn’t see myself happy” doing the same work he was doing in college. So, he decided to take a leap of faith and pursue a project designed to help others navigate life in a more meaningful way.
Inpathy seeks funding to finish
“Life is a series of peaks and valleys. This is normal. This is human. This allows us to empathize with each other. It’s like a huge element is missing from social media. As human beings we’re colorful with a full range of emotions. So, we cut off this whole half of humanness of being sad, angry, jealous, or insecure. We push it aside. It’s almost like they want us to be robots. And we can’t do that,” Smith told TheBWSTimes.
Inpathy is looking to raise $250,000 to hire well-needed help to finish the quarter of development for Inpathy on iPhone and have it available for free and ad-free. Inpathy reaching their funding goal will enable Ziarekenya Smith and his team to complete their vision of recreating human experience on social media.
“Social media’s not going anywhere, so let’s create a better version of it,” Smith said.