The Pursuit of Appyness

I recently read an article about an app for iPhone and iPod Touch users called Epic Win. With an impressive name like that you might imagine it to be some snazzy new game set in ancient times or perhaps a catalogue of literary epics from down through the ages. I’m afraid the truth is far less glamorous. Epic Win is a to-do list. Now here was me thinking that to create a to-do list for myself, all I have to do is somehow source a pen and a piece of paper. Are you joking? What is this, the Stone Age? Who needs pens and paper when you’ve got 600 bills worth of Steve Jobs awesomeness going on in your back pocket? You idiot.

Of course it is no ordinary to-do list. For starters, at €2.39 it’s a lot more expensive, but there are other, more ridiculous differences. The app’s tagline is ‘Level up your life’ and the user is awarded XP points for each chore, or ‘challenge’ that is completed. When you reach a certain amount you level up. Ah, so it’s just like my favourite video game, Call of Duty, you ask? Why yes, it’s exactly like it, except instead of killing terrorists, saving the world, or indeed doing anything that constitutes gameplay of any sort, you just clean the dishes and your phone gives you a gold star and tells you you’re special.

This is just one example of the thousands of ludicrous apps being marketed at, and indeed bought by, people who cannot live without their iPhone and need to conduct their whole lives through it. It makes you wonder what they’ll think of next. How about CrApp, a handy little schedule in which you can chart your week’s bowel movements, then post it online to compare with your friends? Or App-etite, which tells you whether you’re hungry or not? Or perhaps App-earance, the app that tells you how you look in the morning, now featuring the voice of Samuel L.Jackson? “You look like shit. Use our new and improved FaceApp to download a new face, motherfucker.”

Of course not all apps are unnecessary and useless. There are some genuinely innovative ones that make life a lot easier, whether it’s translating a menu in a foreign country in seconds or Skyping your mate to tell him that they’re serving camel’s balls in the foreign restaurant you’re in. The key word here, though, is ‘easier’. These apps are not revolutionary, they simply enable you to get things done quicker and with minimal fuss, whether it’s translation, communication, information, or whatever. Pretty much all technology these days is aimed at facilitating our day-to-day lives, making them a little bit easier all the time.

This is a good thing, for the most part, but if we continue down this road it won’t be long until our self-sufficiency all but disappears, and we rely on our phones for literally everything. We will become those fat, lazy, impatient people from the film Wall-E, unable to even stand up unassisted. Only instead of witty dialogue written by Pixar, we’ll just grunt acronyms at each other that our phones have recommended for us.

The main drawback to this over-dependence on technology is that our natural skills are being eroded. Our ability to store and recall information will certainly begin to suffer; who needs a great memory when your smartphone will give you the answer to any question in seconds? This occurs not just academically, but socially. Can’t think of the name of a song or film? There’s an app for that. Table quizzes, in particular, have been ruined by smartphone users.

The problem with relying more and more on your phone is that if the technology becomes unavailable, you have none of the necessary skills to fall back on. It will get to the stage, and I’m sure it’s not too far away in America, particularly, where people who forget their phones or whose batteries die will simply curl up in the foetal position in the middle of the street, shaking violently and shouting something like, “An app, an app! My kingdom for an app!” Only they won’t shout that because they’d need their History App to understand the reference.

Unfortunately there is no way to halt the progress of the app at the expense of our survival skills. As the technology gets ever smarter, we become less and less intelligent and innovative because those traits are less and less important. Of course this is only true for those who are overly dependent on their phones, but that is a steadily growing number. Apple’s latest slogan is “If you don’t have an iPhone, you don’t have an iPhone.” Nothing sells products like tautological statements, that’s for sure. Anyone dull-witted enough to be taken in by that is clearly already a lost cause and probably should rely on their apps for everything.

Now if you don’t mind, I’d like to wrap up this article. I’ve promised myself 200 XP for its completion and I’m about to level up to Legendary Arsehole. I can’t wait.


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