Is it too conclusive to label our generation as the “App Generation”?
127 minutes, 150 times a day. According to some analytics last year, this is the average amount of minutes we spend and the number of times we check on our phones. With that percentage, the lion’s share of usage goes directly to app usage and the remaining is divided into mobile web and traditional phone functions. Mobile traffic around the world represents nearly 13% of Internet traffic, which is not really that much, but if you consider its growth from 1% in 2010 to what it is now, that figure is overwhelmingly big – and still expanding. Adding to these statistics is the fact that almost a third of adults in America own a tablet.
App usage and digital content are changing our worldview and we are just on the brink of it all.
In this light, it is interesting to note how accurately Howard Gardner and Katie Davis put them into words. In their book “The App Generation: How Today’s Youth Navigate Identity, Intimacy, and Imagination in a Digital World”, the co-authors argued that apps have revolutionized the way we navigate in this modern world: that “young people growing up in our time are not only immersed in apps: they’ve come to think of the world as an ensemble of apps, to see their lives as a string of ordered apps, or perhaps in many cases, a single, extended, cradle-to-grave app.”
Formation, productivity, real-time data consumption and social networking are some crucial tasks that have once required a form of physical or mental effort. It can now be all streamlined through the power of apps. You want to spice up your dating life? Swipe left. You have a clever idea that you want to be shared to the whole world? Keep it to 140 characters. The need to buy newspapers to know what’s going on with the world or to attend a networking event is not there anymore because in a click of a button, you can connect with the data and the people that you need. Apps have somehow unlocked ways for us to either pursue new opportunities or limit our goals or processes and that is what the book is talking about when it talks about us being “app-enabled” versus being “app-dependent”.
Using the three psychosocial stages of development proposed by Erik Erikson in 1950 as reference, the book looked at how these apps are shaping our very core.
First is on identity: “With respect to identity formation: apps can short-circuit identity formation, pushing you into being someone else’s avatar (that of your parents, your friends, or one formulated by some app producer) – or by foregrounding various options, they can allow you to approach identity formation more deliberately, holistically, thoughtfully.
New media technologies can open up new opportunities for self-expression. But yoking one’s identity too closely to certain characteristics of these technologies – and lacking the time, opportunity, or inclination to explore life and lives offline – may result in an impoverished sense of self.”
On intimacy: “Apps can facilitate superficial ties, discourage face-to-face confrontations and interaction, suggest that all human relations can be classified if not predetermined in advance – or they can expose you to a much wider world, provide noble ways of relating to people, while not preventing you from shutting off the devices as warranted – and that puts YOU in charge of the APPS rather than vice versa.The quality of our relationships in this era depends on whether we use our apps to bypass the discomforts of relating to others or as sometimes risky entry points to the forging of sustained, meaningful interactions.”
On imagination: “With respect to imagination: Apps can make you lazy, discourage the development of new skills, limit you to mimicry or tiny trivial tweaks or tweets – or they can open up whole new worlds for imagining, creating, producing, remixing, even forging new identities and enabling rich forms of intimacy.”
Many facets of this topic can be up for debate, and right now this book is just one of many that attempts to give light to an unveiling truth. Just like any resources we have, it is still up to us whether we use it for the betterment of our lives or not.