Are Our Apps Wasting Our Time?

Are Our Apps Wasting Our Time?

Not only do they take up your phone storage but they also take up your time.
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At least five times a day, I get a notification on my phone telling me that I have very low storage. Most of the time, I just want to throw the device against the wall. But what I end up doing is either ignoring it or doing what Apple calls “managing my storage.” As I manage the storage of my phone, I am able to see what is taking up most of the space and, I have to say, a good amount of it is apps.

But what exactly is an “app” and what is the purpose of downloading them? Also known as applications, they range from social media, like Facebook or Instagram, to news sources, to productivity. Since everything a person might need is practically in all of these apps, the idea of an app is that they are helpful tools that make our lives easier and save us time.

The real question is whether these apps are useful or just deceiving and actually a huge waste of time.

Let’s take a look at social media apps. Apps like Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, sure make it a lot easier for users to check their respective accounts and be constantly connected to their social world, something that wasn’t possible when smartphones weren’t yet created. However, I think that social media apps are the biggest waste of time that there is. Most of the apps on my phone are social media apps. I have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and Tumblr.

My account for each of these platforms is always connected through their apps, which means that there is never a moment that I am logged out of my social media platforms. Yes, this makes my social life a whole lot easier. I get to check all my notifications the moment I receive them. But is it really making my life easier when I am constantly connected? There never is a moment that I can back away and concentrate on one specific thing.

The apps keep me connected, but also distract me from more productive things I could be doing.

Apps that provide news, such as newspapers or magazines, can be a little bit more constructive. Before one would have to buy a newspaper or search online for the news source. Yet now with apps people are able to receive news notifications the minute the news breaks.

One of the biggest category in the app store is “productivity.” These applications are designed to make the user’s life easier in terms of their work or school life, or really any aspect of their life they want to keep organized.

Most of these apps consist of to do lists, emails, virtual notebooks, calendars, and other organizational tools. There is even an app that through algorithms learns your behavior and smartly suggests different ways that you could get things done.

I love the idea of these types of apps, but I always download them, use them for maybe two or three days, and then completely forget I downloaded them.

Call me old school but I am still the type of person who likes to have an actual physical planner and a piece of paper and pen to write my to-do list on. I think that in the time you take to download the app and update all your information into it, you could already have written down all your tasks in your calendar or to-do list. But that’s my personal preference. I do see how these apps can help people stay organized with all the different options they might offer.

So, are applications beneficial or a waste a time? I am not quite sure. Apps can be very useful and productive, but it mainly depends on how and for what the individual uses the application. An app can be designed with the purpose of making the user’s life simpler, but in reality it could just take away from their time, whereas someone else might be able to make the most of their time with the same application. Because I believe that smartphones themselves are highly distracting, it is hard for any application on a smartphone to be non-distracting. It all depends on personal preference and how people use their applications for productivity without letting other factors of the phone waste their time.

Cover Image Credit: tophdimgs

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A Letter To My Best Friend On Graduation Day

What are you suppose to say to your best friend on graduation day?
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Have you ever heard of a fairy tale? Where two people meet and then everything else seems to fall into place. Well here’s how this one started: two little girls in preschool, sitting in a little room, with other little people. The teacher comes over and starts to hand out frosted cookies and bunny coloring pages for us all. Somehow, somewhere in here, the two little girls became best friends.

Now, I don’t want to tell you some fairy tale story, because fairy tales aren’t really true, right? So here’s what I really want to tell you.

What do you say? I mean really, what are you supposed to say to someone whom you’ve known for almost 15 years? And this someone isn’t just anyone. This someone is your best friend. Someone you’ve gotten used to seeing every day during the week. Someone you looked forward to seeing every day. What do you say?

Well, I guess I can start off by saying thank you. Thank you for being there when I needed someone to just listen. It doesn’t matter where we are in this world or in our lives, I know you will always be there to listen. As I will always be the same for you. Thank you for always being my best supporter. Thank you for not judging me for my sometimes poor decision-making skills. Thank you for late-night conversations. Thank you for remembering every inside joke we have ever created. And I mean every joke! Even if I don’t always remember them. Thank you for being brutally honest with me when I am being ridiculous.

Thank you for respecting my values and opinions, even if you disagree. Thank you for loving my family like you love your own. Thank you for fighting all of life’s battles by my side. Thank you for celebrating all of the exciting moments of my life with me and the many more to come. Thank you for forgiving me every time I might not have been the best friend in the entire world. Thank you for all you’ve taught me, even if you didn’t realize it at times. Thank you for always sharing your crazy stories with me. Thank you for being there through all of the significant others that I have mistakenly chosen. Thank you for listening to my long stories as though you haven’t already heard them a million times. Thank you for being strong when I was weak. Thank you for sharing your secrets with me, and for keeping mine. Thank you for sharing the past fourteen and a half years of your life with me. Thank you.

I honestly cannot believe that high school is over and soon we will both be going our separate ways in life. It’s hard to fathom that we won’t live a few houses down from each other anymore. Only on weekends when we are home from college. It’s going to be tough, but it’s OK. Because I know that no matter where we go in life, whether it’s a quarter mile away from each other or halfway across the world, you’ll always be my best friend. I’ll never come across someone who will be able to take your spot as my best friend. We’ve just got to remember that even though we change and we are both finding our own places in this world, nothing will ever change so much to the point where we’re not still best friends. Later on in life I know I’m going to be able to look back and remember that you were the one who lifted my head when I was losing faith in myself. I know I’m going to remember how you were that one person who knew who I really was. Most importantly, I know I’m going to remember that you were that one person who made the biggest difference in my life.

There really aren't enough words to even begin to describe how much you mean to me. We have the highest expectations for each other and I know that you will be successful in anything you choose to do. Writing this to you is hard, because honestly, I’m scared to admit how truly sad I am to know this will be the end of school with you. There are so many things that I will miss about you next year, from how much of an angel you were to your contagious smile. There’s no one else who can make me laugh so hard that my sides actually begin to kill with pain. I’m going to miss the countless hours we would spend playing Mario Kart and Wii Fit. I’m going to miss you sitting in my kitchen eating cookie after cookie. While you may be one of the craziest individuals that I have ever met in the last 14-and-a-half years of my life, I know you will always be making others laugh if you’re not there making me laugh.You always manage to light up a room. You’ll forever be the life of the party and you never fail at making everything interesting.

It’s going to be hard not being able to run up to each other every day and share our crazy stories or rant about something that just happened during the previous class. I know there will be times after a long day of classes or work when I wish I could just head over to your house, plop down on your bed in your room and play Mario Kart while we talk about our day. I want you to know that whatever happens, whoever you become and whoever the future shapes you to be, I will always be here for you. Whether a drive or a phone call away, I will always be here. We may not be able to spend the next few years seeing each other every day, but I know that you will make a huge impact on those who meet you in the time to come.

The past 14-and-a-half years of my life have been fantastic. I want to thank you for simply being the person you are and for letting me have the honor of being your best friend. I will see you up on that stage when we sit there in the gym at Carrabec High School for the last time together. As soon as we march out that door, you can bet that I will be the first one to run up to you and hug you, and probably cry, and tell you that we made it. Here’s to an amazing future and to a lifelong friendship.

Back to the fairy tale thing for a moment. Now that I think of it, I don’t see why I called our friendship in the beginning a fairy tale. Fairy tales have happy endings, right? Well, our friendship may be a happy one, but it will never have an ending.

Cover Image Credit: Jeff Pouland

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The Microtransaction Plague

Video game and app developers are adding microtransactions to their products - and it's starting to affect the market.
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Microtransactions. The word itself causes gamers to shiver and point out their favorite (read: most despised) ones. A microtransaction is a small amount of money that a game either requires or highly recommends to keep playing or to enhance the game. For example, Candy Crush is free but you can buy tokens to get a hint. In general, microtransactions are found in freeware games, but some have notably made their way to actual video games made by well-known developers. Games already aren't cheap, but charging the customer even more after the fact is just going to cause issues, and it already has. From once anticipated triple-A video games to apps you can download on your iPhone, microtransactions and paid lootboxes have become a point of concern in the video game industry.

It was major news when EA/DICE's 2017 game Star Wars: Battlefront II was released. Not because of it being a major success or helping to expand the story after the Original Trilogy, but it was because of the microtransactions that effectively turned the game into a pay-to-win moneymaking scheme. Even though the consumer paid sixty dollars, maybe more if they bought the “deluxe edition” or even a full console that it came bundled with, they still could not access characters like Darth Vader, Rey, or Luke Skywalker out of the box. The intention was that players would have to earn these characters for online play, which is fair I guess. But the token system wasn't just increased by playing the game, rather you could buy “lootboxes” that would give you items such as tokens and “Star Cards,” which were power-ups you can use both online and in local gameplay. The cost of Darth Vader was so high, it would take a player 40+ hours to gain enough coins to purchase the Lord of the Sith – or, they could buy some lootboxes and get the coins that way, thus increasing the amount of abilities they have in-game. A complaint was made on Reddit, and EA's response (which was basically saying “well that's how we designed the game just deal with it and pay up”) became the most downvoted comment in the site's history. The game, which launched in November 2017, was still fully stocked around Christmas – which was also right around the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. EA took a massive hit, and Disney lawyers even got involved after rumors started up of a possible class-action lawsuit for purposely overcharging players in order to play the game to the fullest extent. At first, EA lowered the point cost to buy the playable movie characters and removed coins and cards from lootboxes, but by 2018, the entire cost/lootbox system was gone, and if you buy the game now, you'll be able to jump right online and play as Rey in a battle. This was such a major controversy that it even prompted some countries to investigate whether or not lootboxes were considered gambling, and Belgium recently declared them as such.

Free apps are notorious for these. There are countless stories of kids racking up a few thousand dollar bill on apps because the game pops up with saying “pay x dollars to get 20 more gems or wait two hours” and they just click to go ahead, there's no passcode to prevent this. The new Harry Potter game, Hogwarts Mystery, is pretty much just a series of microtransactions. While the game is technically free, you still need “energy” to do tasks like rest and talk to characters – but that's nothing, you also need energy to progress through the levels. Yes, you can wait three hours after playing fifteen minutes just to take a short rest before needing to wait another three hours, or you can pay a few dollars every few minutes to keep on going. It's like EA gave them pointers on how to get nerds to pay more than what they should for a game. Pokemon Go (yes I still play it) is the opposite however. You don't need to pay anything to enjoy the game. Yeah you're limited to 250 Pokemon, but by the time you get there, you might want to pay for an additional one hundred or so. Unlike Hogwarts Mystery, you can play it perfectly fine, it doesn't limit your catches or amount of items. Countless games are like this, supposedly being free but requiring payment to get items for use in-game, and developers know this. They want people to be paying extra so they make money, hence why “freemium” software exists. Say it's free, which isn't a lie – but to really get what it's designed to do, be prepared to buy a lot more items and spend money to play a game you thought wouldn't cost you a cent.

Back to major AAA games, you have ones like Fortnite. This is a game that has two different modes, one that costs and one that's free but does include optional microtransactions. The free version, Battle Royale, is an online third-person shooter wherein 100 players fight each other to be the last man standing. The paid version has local multiplayer and a story mode, but isn't required to play Battle Royale. While there are cosmetic items you can earn and buy for the free game, they don't increase your abilities in-game, and you can play as many rounds as you want without having to pay a single cent. Even the “Infinity Gauntlet” mode, a limited-time promotion for Avengers: Infinity War, every player has the chance to get the Gauntlet and play as Thanos – doesn't charge you at all, only thing it costs is your patience and skill at trying to get the item in the first place. Many online games are free but include a paid aspect – Blizzard's World of Warcraft is free until level 20, but it's not like it stops you from playing, you just can't level up after. Yeah it's not perfect, but still. League of Legends is the same way. Both games have microtransactions to get more in-game currency or items, but in theory one could play without paying anything.

Sometimes though, a lootbox isn't a bad thing. In Overwatch, the boxes contain primarily cosmetic items. You pay for the game, you get your game and don't have to pay any more unless you want to get extra things like new DLC, which again, isn't required for play. Or PokeStops in Pokemon Go, where you can stock up on Pokeballs and other gear. But you do not have to put any more money in, because in the end, it doesn't make you any better of a player. But at the same time, there's games like Battlefront II that would have kept at the lootbox pay-to-win concept, but somebody stepped in and made it very clear this is not how the industry should work. Instead of charging players for something they thought was free, just make it an option and allow them to earn the same thing by playing the game, as well as just keeping lootboxes containing skins and other minor items that don't effect gameplay. Microtransactions aren't going anywhere, but after everything that's gone on since EA had to completely revamp their system, the industry should look at whether or not they actually help the game or hinder the players. Because playing for fifteen minutes then having to wait three hours to get enough energy to open a book isn't a game, it's just making people pay more than the program is worth.

Cover Image Credit: Electronic Arts

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