Too much of a good thing isn’t a good thing - and that doesn’t just mean gorging on funnel cakes at the OC Fair. Tech, for all of the positive traits it gives us, can get overwhelming, and it can get overwhelming fast. Ongoing studies have shown that there is a direct link between overusing tech and the way your brain works: maybe you’ll struggle to focus, or you’ll find it hard to break out of anxiety scrolling, or you’ll start sleeping less and less. You might start to struggle to connect with people in real life.
These are extreme cases: the worst of the worst that can happen to you, and they happen because of a variety of other external factors not including using technology too much - but overusing tech has an adverse effect on people. It’s something that Silicon Valley has started to understand a little of, and to work into existing consumer products.
But beyond what comes with the latest iOS or Android update, there’s other apps you can download to help you make the best use of your technology.
Here are five of our favourites, in no particular order.
1. Social Fever
SocialFever is an all-rounder kind of app: not only does it monitor what social media you’re using, it can help you set down a manageable daily limit for those apps, which can help break you out of the endless Instagram Reel cycle. It keeps an idea of how many times you’ve unlocked your phone, how much screen time you’ve had in one day, and provides ‘quality time’ trackers that can put your schedule back into perspective.
We’ve all had days where it’s been easier to sit on social media and watch tiny, addicting little clips to zone out from a hard day. SocialFever doesn’t take those moments away from you: it just puts them on a timer so that you can still browse on your phone - but it won’t take the full day away from you.
SocialFever can also remind you to take regular breaks away from your screen so that you prevent eye-strain, and to take a break from playing loud music through your earphones.
At its core, Forest is a Pomodoro-style timer where the only thing that it takes into account is whether or not you look at your screen before the timer is up. The timers it uses, and the reports generated, are hidden by a simple, sweet narrative where your focus actively helps build a forest - and it plants a tree for you in real-time, too. It comes with multiple customisation options, and while they’re all purely cosmetic, the thrill of seeing your little forest bloom still gives you the same hit of dopamine as scrolling on the internet or watching funny videos on Facebook, just for staying off your phone.
And if you happen to go back to the app before your timer is up, you’ll have to start over - killing your forest in the mean-time.
3. Good News
When bad news happens, it winds up on social media; if you’re anywhere on the internet, it’s pretty impossible to avoid the worst of it unless you either choose not to go online or to stay on a select number of apps where you are less likely to see as much of the news. Having access to social media means that no country’s problems are too far from our own, and it can become overwhelming to keep up with every bad break in the world.
Good News doesn’t dispute that there are problems happening around the world, but it combats technology-induced anxiety by compiling sources of good news in one app. At the end of the day, it’s worth going through the positive headlines to see that for all the bad news you see on social media, there’s also sources for good.
If you have someone in your life who also wants to help moderate their use of technology, Space is an app that provides all of the benefits of monitoring your usage with the added option to invite friends and family to keep track of your progress, and to work on their own digital detox goals in the meantime. Space invites you to set manageable daily records for both the time spent on your phone and how many times you can unlock your screen: meet your goals, and Space rewards you with an achievement to celebrate and to encourage you to keep going.
5. Twilight for Android
Your device already has blue light filters, screen brightness sliders, and a button to help you shift between night mode and day mode, but they’re not always as strong as the phone can manage - and they can still hurt your eyes. Fortunately, there are apps that can heighten the screen brightness to its full capacity, and sync the way your brightness changes depending on the sun cycle in your part of the world. It can help minimise strain on your eyes and give you a better night’s sleep, especially if you spend a few minutes in the evening on your phone.
Technology has become such an ingrained part of our life that being without our devices or access to the internet can be distressing to a person, which is when these apps come in handy. If the way you use your tech is having negative effects on your life, there’s apps that can help you manage the way you use your phone so that it benefits your life. At its heart, tech is an immensely powerful tool, a great way to connect, and has opened up possibilities for human experience beyond what early science fiction has predicted - and knowing how to use it to the best effect for yourself.