Life: There’s an app for that

By on February 12, 2012.

Before getting in his car, Jacob Scott always pulls out his smartphone to check gas prices. The “Gasbuddy” app allows Scott to find the best prices in town by recording user input.

Scott, a junior from Manteca, Calif., majoring in Spanish, uses smartphone apps for just about everything he does. When Scott runs, he uses “Endomondo Pro” to help him manage his music playlist and evaluate his speed throughout the run. “Latitude” allows Scott to know if his sister is home before he calls to ask if she can babysit for him. When he feels like playing guitar, he uses his “Ultimate-Guitar” app to look up tabs.

Photo Illustration by Sarah Strobel

With smartphones spreading across the market, apps have become more relevant. Developers create new apps regularly with the promise of making life easier or more fun. Many people, like Scott, do find ways to enrich their lives with apps, but others believe apps promoting social media can be a waste of time.

[pullquote]”It’s funny because you start to think in statuses … or you start to think in pictures you take. It’s ridiculous to think that way, but that’s how I think now.”[/pullquote]

Michael Fleckenstein, majoring in construction management at UVU, is an avid sports fan. Once a high school star in baseball and football, his sports days are now over and he gets his sports fix through other means. With the NBA season underway, fantasy basketball is in full force. When at home, Fleckenstein and his roommates keep up with the games and stats. When he is away, the “NBA Live” and “Yahoo! Fantasy Basketball” apps allow Fleckenstein to follow his players and know how his team is faring against opponents.

While fantasy basketball is mostly for entertainment, Fleckenstein finds other ways to use his phone to make life easier. When he needs to manage his finances, he simply logs into his bank account through his online banking app.

“I can transfer funds to different accounts of mine, I can even deposit a check by taking a picture of it,” Fleckenstein said. “You can do pretty much anything you need to with that thing.”

Friends of Kayana Beeckel, an anthropology major from Turner, Maine, praise Beeckel’s abilities as an amateur photographer. While Beeckel does have a nice camera at home, it is inconvenient to carry a big camera around. Rather than toting around a high quality camera, she does most of her photography with her iPhone. With Instagram, users can take pictures with an iPhone and edit them. Editing features enable users to add a filter to the picture before publishing.

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Instagram allows users to post their pictures to the Instagram site and to other networking sites, such as Facebook. Beeckel publishes her pictures on Instagram, but said posting them on Facebook and other networking sites is excessive. Beeckel acknowledged the possibility of people spending too much time with social media, but believes Instagram is different.

“There’s less of a tendency to get sucked in because you’re just taking pictures,” she said.

Beeckel said when used properly, apps can make life more enriching and convenient rather than just as a means to connect to friends. She believes the problem begins when social networking starts to interfere with life activities.

“When people are doing something, the first thing they think about is where they are going to post what they’re doing,” Beeckel said.

Brook Dorff, from Cupertino, Calif., graduated from BYU years ago. She moved away from her friends to Arizona and can no longer hang out with her old friends, but she maintains relationships through social media. The Facebook app on her smartphone allows her to not only keep in contact with friends, but have frequent and timely communication.

“Even when communicating with your friends, timeliness is of the essence,” Dorff said. “When someone writes a funny comment, if you don’t write back for two days it’s lost.”

Dorff cited numerous circumstances where social media apps augment relationships and learning in her life, but admitted the availability of social media through her phone can consume her.

“I’m like absolutely addicted to it,” she said. “I went a month without it last March and I was like twitching.”

Dorff’s addiction carries not only physical consequences, but it changes her way of thinking.

“It’s funny because you start to think in statuses … or you start to think in pictures you take, ” Dorff said. “It’s ridiculous to think that way, but that’s how I think now.”

She also acknowledged the effect of social media on her personal interactions with friends. While out with friends on weekends, Dorff posts pictures and comments on Facebook about the fun things she is doing. It tends to detract from her experiences with friends.

“Really, I’m just waiting for responses and not actually doing what I should be doing,” she said. “It’s totally backwards; I’m not 100 percent engaged in what I should be.”

Dorff sees the good and bad that comes from her smartphone social networking, and said she is trying to make changes to optimize her use of these apps. Recently Dorff began using “airplane mode” on her phone to prevent notifications from these apps from distracting her when she should be doing other things.

“I love it, I’m addicted to it, but sometimes I need to lay off a little bit,” Dorff said.