Blake Snow

content advisor, recognized journalist, bodacious writer-for-hire

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Apps are guilty until proven innocent

Editor’s note: The Anti-Technologist is a new column by Blake Snow. It advocates late adoption of consumer technology (if at all) and expels the wonders of finding offline balance in an online world.

smartphone-apps-2When I said last month to ditch your smartphone, I did so with tongue firmly in cheek. I was being provocative.

After all, I own a smartphone. (It’s the kind that half of you love and the other half hate.) But I dumb it down by keeping it on a tight work leash, leaving my text messages on silent, and not subscribing to a data plan.

I also hold most the apps for my phone in contempt. Why? Because the words, “This app has made me a happier person,” has never been uttered. By anyone.

No, no. I can’t stand (most) apps. They’re distracting, fleeting, gimmicky, and largely first world junk. Digital versions of something you’d find at the dollar store.

I didn’t always think that way, however. Like many of you, I downloaded everything and anything that was free and in the slightest bit interesting after buying my first smartphone. I did so for several months.

I suspect that’s partly because we’ve paid so much lump sum for software in recent decades. Partly because we want to believe that we can, in fact, get something for free.

But I quickly learned that 99.9% (with a bar over it) of all apps are useless. They’re not even worth the time it takes to delete them.

Sure, I’ll take a gander at my weather app once a day. I click my news and sport apps often because they don’t have the annoying ads that most websites do.

I’ll use the All Recipes app whenever my wife and I are attempting a newly prepared earth bounty. I let the Chess Free app beat me every now and then. And I use my music app a lot, not to mention my free babysitting app (aka PBS Kids).

But other than that, I just use the “let me talk to this person and that person” app. (It’s pretty cool—You should try it!)

That’s the coolest app on my phone. It lets me stay in touch with the people I love, like, and that pay me money to do things for them. It increases the chances of face time. It lets me send and receive love letters. It keeps me abreast to the wonderful things in my life.

After downloading, regretting, and uninstalling hundreds of apps, I can safely say that all apps are guilty until proven innocent.

What constitutes an “innocent” app? It’s the kind you seek out to solve an immediate problem, rather than a solution seeking a problem; rather than browsing an endless list free apps out of boredom. It’s a 4.5 star out of 5 rated app that you honestly think you’ll use to your advantage.

It’s the popular app you wait for everyone else to vet first, the cream of the crop. But you won’t download it because it’s popular. You won’t download it because it’ll make your vibrant HD photos look like faded 1970 Polaroids (ahem, Instagram).

No, you’ll only download a popular app that has utility for you. You’ll only download the apps that you can justifiable answer “Why would I want this in my life?” and decide beforehand to delete if any and all that fail to meet high expectations.

Granted, I have my fair share of guilty pleasure apps. I’m a firm believe in wasting balanced amounts of time, different strokes for different folks, and all that.

But the sooner you quit and refrain from the guilty apps in your life, the closer you’ll be to a life worth living. C’mon in, the water’s fine.

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© 2013 Blake Snow. All rights reserved.