Life-changing apps so abundant

HARARE - Are you having problems sleeping, exercising and managing your diary or daily agenda?

Well, for as long as you are one of the 1,2 billion mobile phone application users – according to publicly available statistics or data for 2012 – you will surely hear this one day that there is an app to help you with all that.

With total downloads currently numbering between 56 and 86 billion worldwide, it is estimated that 4,4 billion people will be on apps by 2017 and a large portion of these fall under the genre of “self-help apps”.

These are mobile applications meant to create actions or processes (of doing things) to improve oneself i.e. coping with emotional or personal problems and without the help of professionals, peers or family.

Examples include fitness, exercise, meditation, productivity, relationship management, breaking and creating habits as well as many others focussed on physical, mental and emotional strength or improvement.

As a people who love working out, but dislike the pressures of exercising at the gym, there are not only smartphone apps which guarantee you training in the privacy of your home, but also ensure that you have 24/7 access to your fitness instructor – instead of “visiting a personal trainer, expert or therapist” – till your battery runs out!

Having ventured into the streets of Victoria, British Columbia in Canada to explore the cultural phenomenon of self-help apps and its effect on humanity, it we discovered that not everyone knew the term “self-help app” but many utilised these key tools on a daily basis.

In that exercise, people also challenged us to include social media networks such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter or the “big three”.

While some argued that personal, physical and emotional wellbeing is often based or defined by one’s perception, and individual opinions, it was also actually fascinating to learn that these social apps – and essentially any one of them – can be used to potentially improve one’s well-being.

In another view, one is tempted to think: is this redefining of what contributes to self-improvement a result of the world’s over-reliance on technology, in particular mobile media – cellphones, laptops and tablets?

As one discussion forum participant put it: “…my world works well with everything at the slide of my finger. It has definitely made life a lot easier, but to some extent making my brain lazy…”

And without a doubt, such dependence and a heavy reliance on technology was a theme of commonality amongst the people interviewed.

However, the controlling power of technology does not come without its negative effects.

For instance, many of us are guilty of “burying our heads” at the dinner table, in meetings or even when interacting with friends and just to tap away at our screens, and keypads and being miles away mentally, and emotionally.

While technology has brought people together and connected the world, these are some of the paradoxes and it has also managed to isolate people, and keep them in another certain or “virtual mindset”.

“…this technology is drawing people closer to knowledge, but farther to the people in their societal circles and community,” said another contributor.

And when some men call their I-Phone “I-ffey” – on claims that it combines their companionship and phone duties – one cannot help, but wonder what technology will have done to humanity in the next decade.

At a time when people are constantly looking for easy access to services, instant gratification and are perpetually hooked on their gadgets, who would have time to go see a therapist, life coach or a trainer?

And just as self-help apps are ubiquitous, apple, android, blackberry and windows could have all the solutions at the tap of your fingers.

While we are not advocating for people to replace the real “McCoy”, it is also an indubitable fact – in a world of growing technology – that apps (self-help ones included) are slowly taking over and if you are “not convinced” there could be “an app for that.”

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