blackzheep/ShutterstockIf you’re like most people, you’re so dependent on your phone that your top concern is whether your battery will make it through the day. (Make sure you know these tricks to preserving cell phone battery life.) That dependence on hand-held tech may not be the boon you think it is: Results of a recent poll of 200,000 iPhone users suggests that the apps you’re using to enhance your life may actually be draining you of happiness. (Check out these quotes about the secrets to happiness.) The poll was conducted by Time Well Spent, a non-profit group with an app called Moment that tracks how much you use your iPhone and iPad each day and allows you to set limits accordingly.
The purpose of the poll was to bring attention to the fact that a user’s goal in using apps may be at cross purposes with the goals of the companies who design them—which is capturing as much of your attention as possible.
The 15 apps that made the majority of people polled unhappy included several of the most popular social media apps—Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Tweetbot (a Twitter client), and China’s answer to Facebook: WeChat. Joining those were two swipe-based dating apps—Grindr and Tinder; several highly addictive games like Candy Crush and Two Dots; and the news aggregator/discussion app, Reddit. For all of these apps, unhappiness increased with the amount of usage. In addition, some other apps that didn’t make the top 15 “unhappy” apps led to increased unhappiness as usage went up (these included Netflix, Facetime, WhatsApp, and YouTube). What do all of these “unhappy” apps have in common? The can rob hours of your time with little return in terms of satisfaction.
The 15 that cheered people up included meditation apps (Calm, Insight Timer, and Headspace), organization apps (Evernote and Google Calendar), a fitness app (My Fitness Pal), and several apps that enable the user to read, listen to music, or listen to audio books (Kindle, Spotify, Amazon Music, and Audible). The driving directions and traffic app Waze also lifted people’s spirits. Overall, the respondents used these apps for far less time than the apps that left them less satisfied but as usage increased, some of these “happy” apps became less so with increased usage (Spotify, for example), and while Google’s Map application was not among the “happy” apps, users polled reported being slightly happier with increased usage. What many of these “happy” apps appear to have in common is that they are either utility-oriented or are aimed at instilling mindfulness.
In addition, it’s worth noting that almost all the “unhappy” apps are interactive, and almost none of the “happy” apps are. This could be because apps that are based on social interaction tend to take up the most time. It could also reflect that Internet-based social interaction is not nearly as satisfying as its users wish it would be. And certainly, you don’t find online dating scams on meditation-, reading-, or music-based apps.