Source FastCompany Newsletter by Michael Grothaus
Smartphones are the defining technology of the 21st century—so far. I know that’s a grand statement considering things like gene editing are now on the scene, but the truth is smartphones affect more people’s lives and more of the economy by a long shot. Part of what makes our phones so great, of course, are the apps. And there are millions of them. Apple’s App Store has more than 2.2 million, and Google’s Play Store has 2.8 million apps, according to Statista.
The number of apps a person has and uses on their phone is growing. A May 2017 report from App Annie says that the average user has between 60 and 90 apps, nine of which they use daily. With this rise in app usage is a rise in smartphone addiction. Yes, it’s a real thing.
To combat it, you can try ditching your phone, as I did, or you can simply perform an end-of-year digital detox. This is where people review the apps that contribute little to their lives and delete them. Not sure which apps to consign to the dustbin? Consider these:
Apps That Depress You
Yes, social media apps are great for sharing your life with those you love and for passive-aggressively humble bragging to those whose admiration you seek. While getting that digital “like” or other positive feedback will give you a very real hit of dopamine (the brain’s pleasure chemical), the problem is that no matter how good the temporary hit of approval feels, social media apps make you feel depressed in the long run. A 2013 study found that the more people used Facebook, the worse they felt. And it’s not just the blue giant that makes us miserable. Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter also give us low self-esteem. So, if these apps are making you depressed, why are they still on your phone?
Apps That Waste Your Time
I’ll be the first to admit the smartphone has made waiting in line for anything so much less painful than it was when I was a teenager. Long wait at the doctors? Long line at the DMV? Just whip out the iPhone and play a few rounds of Candy Crush and you’ll be at the front of the line in no time. Yet the ability apps have to distract us so completely that we don’t notice the passage of time also serves to eat up the most precious commodity any of us will ever have.
Yeah, I know, you don’t spend that much time on your smartphone, right? Actually, you probably underestimate by half how much time you waste on it, according to a recent study by British psychologists. Another study said the average person spends 23 days a year and 3.9 years of their life staring at their smartphone.
So, what are some of the biggest time wasters? The social media apps listed above, of course, but also most games that feature repetitive play (ahem, Candy Crush, Threes!). Tinder is also a huge time waster–I mean, come on stud, you don’t have enough time in your life to actually meet all the women who swiped right on you. And then there are the apps that are hubs for endless topics and digital interactions with strangers, like Reddit, that you could spend hours on arguing with people you’ve never even met.
Apps That Take Your Money
Our phones already cost us enough money (I’m looking at you, iPhone X) so it’s a kick in the pants that most apps we use are designed to get us to spend even more. The freemium model is one of the most financially successful ways companies make money through their apps. This often involves making the app or game available for download for free, and then offering in-app purchases to unlock more features. Considering that in 2017, people will spend $37 billion on in-app purchases, you can see how well these apps work at separating us from our cash. The worst offenders here include games like Pokémon GO, Candy Crush Saga, Clash of Clans, and Clash Royale.
Then there are the free apps that compel us to make purchases on non-digital goods. I’m talking about apps like Amazon, Groupon, and Walmart that make it all too easy to browse and shop when we are bored and buy anything with just a few taps.
Apps That Make You Work 24/7
The wonderful thing about smartphones is that they give you virtually instant access to anyone you want. You can start a video call or send a text message or write an email to anyone, anytime, anywhere. But this is also one of the biggest problems. These wondrous communication devices are making it increasingly hard to leave work at the office. This problem is getting so bad that France has recently stepped in to enshrine into law a rule that states workers have a “right to disconnect” when they leave the office.
How often do you find yourself doing work-related tasks when you should be relaxing with your family on the weekend? If you’re like me, you probably check that work email as soon as you get the notification–and you probably reply to those Slack messages both before you arrive at the office and after you leave. Biz communication apps aside, the fact that you can draft entire Microsoft Office projects and Google Documents on your phone make it even harder to not be constantly working when you are away from your desk.