Users and their phones can’t be app-part

  • Nation
  • Sunday, 09 Sep 2018

SMARTPHONE apps are deeply entrenched in the life of the average Malaysian these days and for some, they are inseparable.

An event planning manager, who wants to be known only as Emily, says her phone is akin to “another limb”, as she relies heavily on the apps installed for her work and personal life.

“I think if I lose my phone, I would probably flip out.

“I would be lost, in more ways than one, without it. I rely on GPS navigation apps like Waze to get to unfamiliar places constantly,” the 36-year-old says.

Apart from that, she also uses a period tracker to record her menstrual cycles.

The app predicts when is her next cycle and even alerts her when the time of the month is supposed to come.

“This is especially useful so that I know when to be prepared,” Emily says, admitting that before this, she used to mark her period days manually in her calendar.

Having an expense tracker also helps her to manage her personal expenditure and prevents her from blowing her budget.

Health apps have also come in handy for accountant S. Nirupama Devi, 35, who uses her phone to keep track of the number of steps she takes daily.

“It also records my calorie intake, stress levels, heartbeat and oxygen saturation. So that’s helpful.

“Everyday, I’m reminded of how much extra I’ve indulged in from the previous day,” she says, adding that it is also a good reminder to maintain an active lifestyle if she does not hit her targeted number of daily steps.

And like many music lovers these days, Nirupama says she cannot do without the online music streaming app, Spotify.

“How can you say no to good music? I have a paid, premium account so I don’t feel like I’m not ripping anyone off.

“It gives artistes the due credit they deserve so I’m guilt-free about it,” she says.

While most Malaysians are glued to their phones, Nirupama agrees the heavy reliance on technology in our lives does make us overly attached to our devices.

“But I’m not sorry about it. I’d rather have this at the tip of my fingers. It’s convenient and it saves time.

“Plus we live in modern times.

“It’s up to you as an individual on how much focus you are willing to invest in these apps,” she says.

One of the most unique apps sales executive Lim Teng Rung, 31, has used on his smartphone is a platform to match pet owners with pet-sitting services.

He used the app to find a person to house and look after his dog for a few days while contractors carried out renovation works at his house.

“More commonly, I use my phone often to book movie tickets and collect points when I dine in certain restaurants,” he says.

Lim says the fact that more and more Malaysian businesses are developing apps catering to specific needs, and even quirky ones, is a welcome advancement.

This is because everything is more efficient and convenient for consumers.

“Sometimes, when I think about it, I would never have imagined being able to do what society is able to do with a push of a button these days.

“What a time to be alive,” he quips.

HELP University Department of Psychology head Elaine Fernandez says the emergence of so many Malaysian technopreneurs is heartening, as it shows we have recognised opportunities and are capatilising on them.

“The growing use of apps for a wide-range of purposes indicates that we are advancing as a society.

“This is demonstrated by the apparent comfort with which we’re able to keep up with the pace and make use of technological advances.

“What we will need to develop in line with this is our psychological capacity to deal with the speed of these changes, so as not to get lost in them,” she points out.

But Fernandez, a social psychologist, stresses that the effects of technology, devices or apps themselves are neither positive nor negative influences.

“Rather, it’s how they are used that produces any kind of effect.

“Certainly, it is possible that mindless use of technology, especially for people who use it as a form of escapism or avoidance, can lead to issues such as addiction.

“However, this largely depends on the steps individuals take to set the boundaries between themselves and their devices,” she says.

For people with issues with mobility, or social phobias, Fernandez says the availability of online services gives them access and resources that they otherwise would not have.

But to avoid falling into the trap of over-use, there are a few things we can do to make sure that we get the best use of our devices while avoiding any problems for ourselves.

“For example, when working on an important task, it’s useful to have your smartphone in another room. This helps to reduce distractions and can help improve efficiency and productivity,” she suggests.

Outside of work, Fernandez advises people to avoid using digital devices at least 30 minutes before going to bed to help prevent our minds from associating bedtime with browsing the Internet or carrying on with work.

One way to reduce this temptation is to charge phones away from beds.

“Similarly, we can also keep our phones in a closed bag when we are engaging with people, so that we can give our full attention to the people we are with.

“These are some conscious behavioural decisions that can help us slowly turn these boundaries into habits over time,” she says.

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