Tech will hold us together while apart
09 April, 2020
I don’t know about you, but the word ‘quarantine’ immediately throws me back to a scene in Pixar’s “Monsters Inc.” in which a contaminated employee is put into quarantine as a “23-19” has occurred. Given the current situation we’re all faced with, how are people coping with the anxiety that remote working and isolation bring?
My interest was sparked after reading a BBC article about smartphone addiction, also referred to as ‘nomophobia’ (fear of being without a mobile). The article talked about how almost a quarter of young people are so dependent on their smartphones that it’s become more than just a desire, it’s an obsession. The addiction to smartphones is often fuelled by Internet addiction disorder. So, it would come as no shock if we saw this increase further during these uncertain times, as more young people – in fact, people of all ages – will have no choice but to turn to their phone for comfort while in isolation.
I appreciate that in normal circumstances the habit to engage with a smartphone over human interaction would have negative consequences in a person’s life and their overall well-being. However, these are not normal circumstances, so maybe smartphone technology might just be the thing that holds us together while we are apart. After all, it’s rarely the smartphone itself that creates the compulsion, but rather the applications (apps) and the online world.
So, after speaking to a few of my close friends – who fit into the category of being the most vulnerable – I started to recognise some of the common emotions they were all experiencing, which could be relatable to young people in general, and decided to find different apps that could assist with some of their internal battles. I’ve categorised the different apps in relation to three key feelings I identified: boredom, anxiety and loneliness.
To conquer boredom: the fear of not being mentally stimulated while in isolation
Brain training games may help improve your mental functioning – memory, response time and logical skills. Although a recent study pointed out that it’s not that black and white – as these games seem to improve specific, not always transferable, skills after long periods of practice – they may produce more benefits than scrolling your day away on social media. So, here are some mind stimulating apps I think you should try out:
1. Peak – a free app developed by neuroscientists, educators and game experts – can help improve your cognitive skills.
2. Curiosity – another free app that features original videos and articles that explore the world’s unanswered questions, as well as puzzles and quizzes to share with friends and family.
3. Vocabulary Builder from Magoosh – devised to help you learn 1,200 significant words with definitions and example sentences, this app is your path to building a wider and more valuable vocabulary.
4. TED – TED talks is a non-profit organisation which encompasses the ethos that ‘ideas are worth sharing’ through informative and inspirational videos. The app allows you to watch a diverse set of people talk about a range of subjects from social issue to science and art. It’s free education at the end of your fingertips.
5. Duolingo – whether you want to learn Spanish, Japanese or one of the other 12 languages available on the app, Duolingo can make that happen for free.
To support with anxiety: the uncertainty of how long the current events will last
Mindfulness and meditation isn’t a new method, but tech has now made it easier to learn to cope with difficult feelings without analysing, suppressing or encouraging them. You just need to find the right apps to support your journey in navigating stress and anxiety.
1. Calm – one of the top-rated apps for sleep, mediation and relaxation. When you open it up you will be greeted with gentle sounds of the outdoors and will have access to guided Daily Calm sessions to help improve your mental well-being.
2. Headspace – like calm Headspace is the best-known meditation app on the market. I have personally been using Headspace for over a year now and have found it beneficial in learning the basics to meditation and mindfulness.
Sound therapies have long been the go-to way to relax and tune into a different world, but I bet you were unaware that UK neuroscientists have discovered which pieces of music enhance your well-being and health the most. The study, conducted by Dr. David Lewis-Hodgson of Mindlab International found that the song ‘Weightless’ by Marconi Union resulted in 65% reduction in overall anxiety from the participants. But, where can you listen to this remarkable bit of music and other calming sounds?
1. Spotify – a digital music, podcast and video streaming app that gives you access to millions of songs from talented artists around the world. The basic functions are free, but you can upgrade and let Spotify create daily mixes based on your listening patterns and introduce you to new musicians and tunes weekly.
To tackle loneliness: the fear of being forgotten and left out
Group video chat
Staying inside as a fulltime lifestyle is made slightly more bearable with the ability to video call friends and family.
1. House party – a new and highly popular app among the younger generation has become the ‘go-to’ way to video chat and play games with your loved ones. A girls’ night in will never be the same!
As videos become more and more popular as a way of consuming information, it comes as no surprise that people are turning to them to share their experience or people are watching them to support and be part of the journey together.
1. YouTube – believe it or not YouTube is much more than cat videos. It is a place where you can connect with like-minded individuals and form an emotional attachment to others who may be feeling the same way as yourself and build an online community.
So, there you have it – my view on how smartphone tech will hold us together while apart as we face this mind over matter situation.