Is there an app for that?
What is an app? Ten years ago, if anyone had asked me that, I would have drawn a blank. Is that even a word? It sounds like “application”. But what does an app do?
In 2018, even the Chinese have learned to incorporate the hi-tech lingo into their vocabulary. Being as archaic as I am, I am still not 100% comfortable latching onto these buzz words. Just as I don’t know why something is Instagrammable, I am not sure how the word “app” found its way into our English vocabulary, and possibly even sneaking into a language as ancient as Mandarin. On an unrelated note, the evolution of language is also fascinating!
Currently, my iPhone home screen carries a bunch of apps, some useful and some I have no idea what they are. For a techno-phobe (as I have written before, I am one of the last people on this planet to sign up for a data plan), I have benefited immensely from some apps. Convenience apps to check the weather, directions and vocabulary words have become time savers. In another era, we would have had to turn to the radio or fish around for a map or a dictionary. Those days are long gone thanks to technology. And I flirt on and off with the Kindle app, still not entirely in love with reading books on a screen. The yard stick by which I measure the usefulness of an app is whether a techno-phobe like me can simplify her life and how quickly we adopt this program. By simplifying life, I mean how much time it saves me that I can put towards other more urgent matters in life.
On the other hand, there is a proliferation of new apps for mental health and even dating. Now we are entering a different territory. Mental health and dating apps also offer services to help simplify life, but unlike previous apps, both involve human interactions. People in another era would have had to work hard to achieve success in either realm. In the case of mental health, it would have been reaching out to other human beings like friends and good counselors. In the case of dating, it would have been reaching out to people in your surroundings like at a bookstore, or on the street. It seems that these apps’ popularity is because they save us the trouble of actually going out there to engage with friends, family and strangers. In a world connected to apps, we have become so disengaged from our surroundings and rely heavily on computer programs to do the leg work for us. Apps are supposed to help us get through depression and find the perfect partner based on data analytics. The online dating experience has been likened to an online shopping experience, similar to how we shop for the perfect summer top by swiping in either direction. Is there any wonder that in an increasingly connected world online, in real life, we are actually growing more distant with each new app?
I welcome apps. This techno-phobe is thrilled with her apps now all accessible with data. I love them especially if they can help solve an immediate problem. But some problems are more app-able than others. Other problems are less amenable to an app solution because the solution requires more than the ability to click and swipe. As much as apps are there to help us navigate this complexities of life, some problems are better left to the offline world.