Have apps Killed Our ability to adult?
Dating apps kickstarted the dating apocalypse; others showed us we could get someone to do our sh!tty jobs for us. Now that there are apps for basically everything, are they ruining our capacity to think?
“How do I order food when my phone is all the way over there?”
“To solve a problem, we’re using less brain power.”
76: That’s how many apps I have on my phone.
Not including the ones pre-installed by Apple. Seventy-six apps I felt I truly couldn’t live without. I’ve got everything from Facebook and Instagram, to Tinder, Pokémon Go, and some app that makes it look like you’re bald (weird, but I felt it necessary to download one day at the pub). There are apps to measure my heartbeat, to order food, to hire a car, to put a border on a pic, and to check the weather more specifically than the Apple app does. Then there are the apps to sell things, to buy things, and to make people do things for me, like fetch my groceries. Basically, my life is in my phone. I ain’t alone.
I’m willing to bet my breakfast you can spot your phone out of the corner of your eye. And with 85 percent of us apparently choosing mobile apps over websites, there is supply meeting demand—in the Apple App Store alone there are 2.2 million apps for IOS devices. Suddenly my 76 doesn’t sound so bad. But before you surrender to the phone gods, clinical neuropsychologist Ash Nayate sees two problems with the spread of apps.
“The first one comes with social media,” she begins. “We can ask any question and unlike Google, where we have to collate the information and synthesize it in our head, our friends are doing it for us via social media. In order to solve a problem, we’re using less brain power. Secondly, apps are a distraction and we’re shifting towards using the conveniences as a pacifier rather than using our time for more complex problemsolving tasks.”
You see, we’re getting less practiced at the skills we were expected to know 10 years ago without the aid of an app. Think about math—it’s almost okay not to be good at math, and I know I’m rubbish. But it doesn’t matter because I’ve got a calculator on my phone, and Safari as a backup if I can’t even figure out how to find a solution via the calculator. It goes much further than math when it comes to the skills we’re slowly losing the capacity for, too.
Think dating. It’s certainly a skill, honed through evolution and maturity. But with the popularity of apps, we’re slowly losing that skill, or it’s evolving into something completely different. Either way, we’re lazy. Think Wingman, the app that launched in April that lets your friends steer your dating life—you literally aren’t actively using that skill anymore. If that is too dystopic for you, apps Crushh, Heroboyfriend, and Break-up Boss are the latest (paid) apps on the block that will help take care of your whole love life, from figuring out if your crush likes you based on text messages to planning your dates, and then helping you deal with a breakup, in that order. From heart-eyed emojis to an actual breakup, you don’t have to make any decisions as to how you play the dating game.
Coupled up? Ha! You’re still losing skills! We’re having our food delivered without having to cook it ourselves, cars are coming to pick us up without having to call a taxi company and use our words, and threehour delivery is there for a dress if we don’t like the one we wore to work. We’re categorically more impatient, Nayate says, as we’ve somehow lost the art of delayed gratifica- tion that we inherited when we began to mature.
Still, before you despair and go off the grid, there is a good side: we’re also getting smarter! Sure, we might be losing all our social skills and becoming less practiced in the art of adulting, while also turning into a bunch of impatient brats who wait for no man, but with all that time saved not hailing cabs or doing long division, we’re able to focus more on the kinds of complex brain exercises and information we weren’t able to dedicate time to in the past.
“One thing psychology knows is that our intelligence as a society is going up,” says Nayate. “These modern conveniences give us more time to devote to learning. Things as simple as a dictionary— there was a time we had to go and look something up; now we can just go through our phone.”
But where do we cross the line between getting smarter and ruining humanity? We’re at least another 10 years away from robots in our homes, so we need to bridge the gap before we’re all meandering around in a pseudo-zombie state, phone clutched in palm. The first step to claiming back our brains? A whole lotta auditing.
“Objectively look at what you want out of your relationships and health and fitness and what you achieve—start with that lifestyle audit,” says Nayate. “If there is a gap, that signals a problem. Then do a time audit by measuring what you do every hour on the hour. It’s amazing how much time we can lose. Awareness is 95 percent of the solution, teamed with self-discipline. Once you know where you’re going wrong, you can be more intentional about where you spend your time and, thus, your brainpower.” Hmmm, I wonder if there’s an app for that...