apps for avoiding apps
We can make you put your phone down
An onslaught of apps and strategies try to divorce you from the validation slot machine in your pocket.
Smartphones are portable slot machines. Feed it little units of your only finite resource (time), and when things break right, you’re flush with good feelings. The fucked subway route is circumnavigated, a nearby cafe found — a suite of everyday conveniences that seemed both excessive and miraculous when the iPhone launched a decade ago. More often, though, another scenario: you look up a word in a book, and an hour later, you emerge on the other side of a fugue state, the phone is still in your hands. You read something, but it’s hard to say what. You scrolled through a face carousel of horny locals and talked to no one. You considered a few products and immediately forgot them. The hour is gone — and every vacant tap and scroll has enriched the companies that spin your data into revenue.
There are well-staffed research teams, sinister conferences, and millions in venture capital dedicated to making tech products more habit-forming. We’re left trying to break the cycle ourselves.
My favorite tool for doing this is Forest, an app that costs $1.99 and looks like it was designed for children, which is sort of pleasantly degrading. It’s been the #1 productivity app in the App Store for over a year; its only purpose is to help you stop touching your phone. Tap a button, sprout a little digital plant, and leave your phone alone until the allotted time is up. I use Forest every day, which has made me realize how often I pick up my phone for no reason, a feeling like walking into a room only to forget what I was planning to do there. It is depressing but instructive. As the stakes are technically nonexistent, I imagine this app is only truly useful for Catholics and others with a highly refined guilt palate....MORE
I felt a twinge of optimism when I heard that Arianna Huffington’s vague venture-backed wellness project, Thrive Global, had launched a mindfulness app. Perhaps they’d thrown some real resources into the project. Instead, here is all you need to know: one of its core functions is a text auto-reply feature, which allows you to simultaneously ignore and infuriate your friends. (Sample response: “I’m in Thrive Mode right now.”)...