Untrained Heart: Down Loaded and Over Scrolled with App Fatigue
On occasion, when I look at the screen on my smartphone I feel lonely.
Here is my routine.
I pull the device from my pocket. I look at the picture of my children on my home screen, the kids who all live 800 miles away now. The iPhone looks back at me. Ah, I know this face, you are back again. I shall let you pass. Facial recognition instead of entering a passcode has humanized our relationship and I’m convinced the phone has that exact inner voice.
I land on my first screen of app icons. By the way, I organize my digital world logically. Apps that are social in nature on the first screen. Swipe right for work related applications. Another swipe to get photo and art editors. Next screen is all financial. Fifth one for music and video. Utilities and randomness on the sixth screen. Games of course is seventh. Lastly comes transportation and food. There are 127 individual programs spread over eight screens. Logical, clear, calm.
Ask a friend how they arrange the apps on their phone. You will nod, smile and see their personality clearly reflected in their configuration. One I asked said she organized them by color. I thought it was a joke until I saw all the green icons on one screen, blue on the next, purple, red and so on. She remembered their location because of coloring, not function. That’s so Angela.
Use caution when asking loved ones though. My wife swears she has a method to her madness when looking for an app on her phone. When I try o find one using her device though I get lost. I will say some endearing statement such as how can live like this? The exchange goes quickly downhill, not in my favor.
As the owner of my own content, residing in my 127 apps, I am suddenly, instantly bored. That’s the problem I am having lately. I am tired of my music. I’m weary of liking other people’s social media updates. I avoid commenting about politics, the world of real news, which many of my friends try to bring to my attention. All day long.
So many apps and nothing to do.
It’s just a phone. You need to get a life.
I agree. It’s just that spending time on my phone used to mean something different. It was binary in the sense that I would talk to someone or not talk to someone. When I’m on my phone now it involves so much more responsibility. I am forced to make choices about how I’ll spend my time.
I can work in Mint to manage my finances. I can view my Calendar to see where I need to be. I can stream YouTube to watch random acts of humor. I can scroll on Instagram to enjoy photography. Learn important lessons from TED talks. Read a newspaper. Work on tasks for my clients. Explore Reddit topics. Watch a movie. Trade stocks. Post memes. Make LinkedIn connections. Tweet. Scroll. Swipe. Tap. Pinch.
There is a deeper personal dive in there as well. I can open the apps where I track what I eat, what I weigh, how much I exercise and how many steps I take. I can see where I have been going through my Uber trip history. Looking at my travel account on United, American and Expedia will definitely bore both of us.
I can swipe to my games screen and keep things light by playing Solitaire. And then I go through phases when I have Words with Friends. Recently I have travelled hundreds of levels in Word Stacks.
So many important activities I just can’t choose anymore. I am caught in a Candy Crush with no particular preference for any sweets. I stare at the icons in a mindset of uncertainty. Read news? Check balances? Update status? Recommend links? Play a game?
Don’t you have actual friends? Talk to someone on Skype or Facebook and have an actual conversation perhaps.
Good idea. Yes, my closest 1,486 friends are on Facebook. They are active and attentive and I love to scroll their posts about the amazing meals they are having. They often praise the beautiful weather in their geographic area and I jealously give their photo of paradise a thumbs up click. Many friends use the platform to express their rage, complaining loudly about the newest offensive thing said by politicians they hate. Several friends of mine spend free time commenting on and sharing links to videos made by people with suspiciously serious talent.
There is wonderful news to be had from the 20,253 connections I accumulated on LinkedIn. They love me. I have to turn off notifications on my birthday because several thousand of them will send their best wishes on or close enough to that day.
But consuming Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, Twitter or LinkedIn content does not fill me up, lately. There is no sense of gratitude I experience. How come having some many friends makes me feel so alone?
They call it social media, you old fart, so if you don’t like it then just log out.
But they all hold such promise. Right? Scrolling my applications used to excite me, inspire joy and create a sense of wonder.
Maybe the problem is my interests are not changing as fast as my choice of apps. I like the same musician whether he is sending me a tweet on Twitter or a status update from Facebook. I follow the same comedian on Instagram as I do on YouTube. I queue up the same style music on SoundCloud as I do on ITunes. I am the same guy. My tastes change at a glacier pace. But fresh apps for me to interact with the world arrive really often.
Every new app gets to know me. That’s a nice feeling. There’s a warm period to the start of our relationship. We both want to hang out. We let each other know what feels good. I select a comedian. From there the app and I enjoy a discussion that fans are having about her appearance on SNL. She killed it. She needed better material. Oh, if you like Jimmy Fallon then for sure you should check out these other four comedians, this show about cooking and this page for those who love wearing kilts to watch NASCAR.
If you are not interested then don’t read. No one is forcing you to do anything.
I know, I know. But everyone says the app I recently downloaded is so great. I want to keep our relationship going. We just moved in together and it would be insulting to ignore each other. I’m not going to install and delete as soon as there is a lull. I’m not that kind of guy.
But I do ghost many apps. I download, configure and go on a few sessions together. Then I leave the program on its own for the next year. I never tap, never open. Rude, I know.
And apps I do embrace reach a plateau. We get too familiar and our time together becomes a routine. We develop rituals we go through together, but there is no feeling anymore. She puts up two or three notifications and I feel obligated to stop by and look at what she found. I start to only follow a suggestion once a week, then fortnightly and finally almost never. The app gets desperate. She is suggesting celebrities to follow that are far removed from what we’ve talked about in the past. She is borrowing interests from other people to see if I will perk up. Do you like to travel? Want more violent news? Want a list of 16 cities better to live in than yours?
Wow. You sure are needy. Not sure the problem is software related.
I’ll admit I may be too sensitive on this topic.
Every app I open features a reflection of how I felt for the three months following the arrival of the app into my life. The software is not to blame. The apps do their duty.
I appreciate mindfulness so I installed an app Now there are news feeds from Buddhism blogs and spirituality sites on that one. Another app has posts about theatre companies and playwriting because I clicked those interests when using the software. Each app holds a capsule of content that represents my hobbies, my worries and my happiness quotient related to the time we spent to date interacting.
Historically the content of my phone is relevant and interesting. But these days, when I scan the rows and columns of icons, I just feel bored. I’m floating all alone in an ocean of smartphone software.
I yearn for the sense of wonder again. I crave the raw newness that came with the first decade I spent with my device. I am seeking that spark once again that comes from browsing screens that inspire me to be a better friend, a better citizen and a better human. It’s me, I know, not the technology. I will get the groove back.
That’s an untrained heart.