Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Now they have an "app" for everything, or do they?

© Depositphotos.com/@lunamarina
While I am sure that "apps" such as Lumosity can be helpful in exercising one's brain, and MyFitnessPal is a calorie watcher's dream, I am not convinced that there is an app for everything.

But recently, the Australian Department of Defence released High Res, an app to help people manage stress.

Before I critique this approach to managing stress, I must admit that for people who spend much of their time using their mobile phone, such an app may help in the practice of emotional intelligence.

Several years ago, when I first worked on the idea of "lecturing as performance", I found, inevitably, that my emotional intelligence was tested whenever I tried anything even remotely different at the front of a lecture theatre filled with about 600 people.

As a result, I took a course on emotional intelligence to provide me with some tools to manage my emotions while "performing". It worked.

One of the tips mentioned by the instructor appears to be replicated by High Res. For example, some habitual cues such as flicking a bracelet when confronted with stressful situations might signal one to disengage from an argument, to break off in order to process what is happening, and to return at some later time with a more constructive approach to dealing with the other person and the issue at hand. 

Rather than a physical signal, I daresay High Res may provide users with a tool to do the same thing, albeit less intellectually and more perfunctorily. While I have no intention to criticise the app and the important intention behind it, I must admit that this obsession with "an app for everything" is missing the key point.

I stopped using a mobile phone at the end of 2009 after returning from my sabbatical in Jordan. Ever since then, my stress levels have decreased significantly.

When I take my dogs for a walk around my local lake, I am shocked by the number of people who walk their dogs while talking on their mobile phones. I know people who drive long distances for work and they call their friends and family to entertain them while driving. Take the time and look around - it is a rare thing to see a lone individual walking around without talking on their mobile phone.

The whole point of being alone is to rejuvenate one's spirit. To reconnect with God or the Universe or Nature or whatever it is that floats your boat. Reaching for the mobile phone destroys this important downtime, but that's what most people do whenever they are alone.

Mobile phones are an obsession. And I believe they are an unhealthy obsession. If you can't be by yourself without calling or SMSing or chatting with someone on your mobile phone, I doubt any app will help you build resilience. The problem is much deeper than that.

So while the intentions of High Res and the importance of addressing mental health issues are deserving of attention, I am not convinced that an app can help people to reduce their stress. I believe this to be superficial at best and a lost cause for addressing first principles at worst.

So stop using your mobile phone as a substitute for thinking, being punctual, and self-reflecting. Unplug. Have an app-free day. I guarantee you that your mobile phone is a cause, not a cure, for stress.

But don't believe me - try it for yourself and then tell me it didn't work out for you!



Creative Commons License Except where indicated otherwise, Le Flâneur Politique by Michael de Percy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 Australia License. Based on a work at politicalscience.com.au. Background image ©Depositphotos.com/ @redshinestudio