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Are Apps Wasting our Time?

By Melanie Spina

At least five times a day, I get a notification on my phone telling me that I have low storage. Most of the time, I just want to throw the device against the wall. However, I end up either ignoring it or doing what Apple calls “managing my storage.” As I manage the storage of my phone, I am able to see what is taking up most of the space and, I have to say, a good amount of it is apps.

What exactly is an “app” and what is the purpose of downloading them? Also known as “applications,” they range from social media, like Facebook or Instagram, to news sources, like The New York Times, to productivity, like Dropbox. The main thing with apps is that they have this notion attached to them that their purpose is to be helpful tools that make the user’s life easier and save them time, since everything they need is practically right in these apps.

However, the real question is: are these apps are useful or just deceiving and actually a huge waste of time? Personally, I am not quite sure what the answer to this question should be.

It depends on the app. For example, take a look at social media apps. Apps like Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, sure make it a lot easier for users to check their respective accounts and be constantly connected to their social world. However, I think that social media apps are the biggest waste of time that there is. Most of the apps on my phone are social media apps. I have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Tumblr. My account for each of these platforms is always connected through these apps, which means there is never a moment that I am logged out of my social media platforms. Yes, this makes my social life a lot easier, I get to check all of my notifications the moment I receive them; but is it really making my life easier that I am constantly connected? There’s never a moment that I can back away and concentrate on one specific thing.

The apps keep me connected, but simultaneously distract me from more productive things I could be doing. Forrester Research, a research and advisory firm for business and technology, did a study reported by TechCrunch in which they found that 1.25 billion monthly use the Facebook application, social network apps in general claiming more than 25 minutes of use per day.

Apps that provide news, such as newspapers or magazines, can be a bit more constructive. Before the creation of applications, one would have to buy a newspaper or search online for the news source. Now with apps, people are able to receive notifications the minute the news breaks. Regardless of my preference for the physical publication, I do concede that news apps help keep users in the loop and can be beneficial. According to Forrester Research, a sports app can take up to 3 percent of usage minutes, while users show a higher interest in news apps. According to the report, they spend a median of 11 minutes and 51 seconds per day on these apps.

One of the biggest categories in the app store is “productivity.” These applications are designed to make the user’s life easier in terms of their work or school life, or really any aspect of their life that they want to keep organized. According to Forbes, there is currently a huge demand for productivity apps and people just keep creating more. Some sell for as much as $40 whereas others are free.

Most of these apps consist of to-do lists, emails, virtual notebooks, calendars and other organizational tools. There is even an app that through algorithms learns your behavior and suggests different ways that you could get things done.

I love the idea of these types of apps, but I always download them, use them for maybe two or three days, and then completely forget about them.

Call me old school, but I am still the type of person who likes to have an actual physical planner, or a piece of paper and pen to write my to-do list on. I think that in the time you take to download the app and update all your information into it, you could already have written down all your tasks in your calendar or to-do list. That’s my personal preference, but I do see how these apps can help people be productive and stay organized with all the different options they might offer.

Gabrielle Nau, sophomore radiology major and the vice president of membership for the Delta Zeta sorority, says that her organization uses the GIN System app, available to organizations of all shapes and sizes, providing an interactive dashboard. Nau claims that the sorority uses it particularly to keep good organization and communication throughout their chapter.

“GIN System has so many great tools such as calendars, text and email reminders, lists of members with all their important information, and even a section that we can upload all important documents,” she said. “Our officers can easily contact any member through the GIN app or GIN emails which can be customized to be sent automatically, or write them manually and send them to whomever you need. Without this system, our chapter wouldn’t run as smoothly as is does.”

So, are applications beneficial or a waste a time? I am not quite sure. Apps can be very useful and productive, but it mainly depends on what each individual uses them for. An app can be designed with the purpose of making the user’s life simpler, but in reality it could just take away from their time, whereas someone else might be able to make the most of their time with the same application. I believe that smartphones themselves are highly distracting, because it’s hard for any application on a smartphone to be non-distracting. It all depends on personal preference and how people use their applications for productivity without letting other factors waste their time.

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