I was talking to a friend of mine the other day about something…what it was, I can’t recall. But, regardless, as soon as we weren’t sure of the answer we were looking for, he says to me, “Check the app.” Oh yeah, that’s easy.
Ahh, apps. In other words, and archaically known as: applications. We’ve encountered applications since at least computers have been in existence. We just refer to applications (or ‘apps’) differently now. Where an application used to be a software program such as Lotus 1-2-3, an app is now considered a short cut way to find information, play a game, keep productivity, or get something done.
It got me thinking…what did we do before some of these apps? Have we become so lazy that we don’t have to go out of our way to get an answer….or finish a project….or even reach someone we know on the other side of the world. Would you consider it lazy, efficient, or just signs of the times?
Here are five ways that apps have made us, what I think, could be a lazy society. To showcase this, here are five apps and what we used to do before they existed:
1. Google Maps
What It Is: Google Maps is not only a website, but also an app for the Smartphone and Tablet. You can input Point A and Point B (actually, you don’t even need to know the address for some businesses, just the business name) and it will spit out at least one set of directions on how to get to Point B from Point A. Genius. The app actually speaks to you while you are driving. Brilliant.
What We Used to Do: If you didn’t own a paper map, or Thomas Guide, you actually called the person or business you were going to. They would refer you to a map, and many people had atlases, and then they would give you some directions that you would write down on a piece of paper. You would read them before you got in your car so you had a general idea of where you were going. Then, you would read while you drive (smart, right?) and sometimes pull over if you knew you were lost. And, if you really were lost, you’d stop at a gas station to use a pay phone to call the person or business you were trying to find and go over the directions with them again. Just think. If you or someone you know who is younger ever had to do all that…they would call it a frustrating day. But, we used to do it all the time!
What it is: A productivity app that allows you to keep a running to-do list by category (i.e. personal v. business). You can due dates and prioritize your lists by importance. You can create a recurring task (i.e. weekly or monthly) so it automatically reminds you when it is due. It shows you the list by date due and you can sync it with your Microsoft Outlook or Gmail calendars and e-mails. You can use the website, but you can also use it on your Smartphone or Tablet while on the go.
What we used to do: Write it down! To-do lists? They were all over the house or the office. Yellow note pads. Sticky notes. All. Over. The. Place. Each morning you’d write everything down you had to do that day. Or, on Sundays you wrote a list of what you had to do for the week. You kept a day planner or desk calendar that you would write some of your tasks on, but you always had to write it down, cross it off when it was complete and add a due date if you had one. On the go? More pieces of paper. Or, better, write it on your hand with ink! Was that not the most popular way to “remember the milk” when going to the supermarket? Now, we don’t even have to write a new to-do list every day as this one does not take up much room on your desk or cork board.
What it is: A website, and an app, that allows you to research different cities, hotels, attractions, restaurants, and even airlines based on reviews by other people. The app is great for while you are on vacation, the website is great for research.
What we used to do: Guide books. Oh, going on a trip to France? Must get the France, Paris and South of France Guidebooks from Fodor’s, Frommer’s and Lonely Planet. Or, maybe you would show up at a travel agency to ask them to help you plan a trip, itinerary and all. Don’t forget to bring your map. Not sure where to go on vacation, where to stay? We asked around. Our friends, our co-workers, or maybe the mom of your daughter’s friend at school. Social media was social referrals long before the Internet was around. You just had to get up and ask! It made life a little easier knowing that the person giving us the referral was someone we trusted. These days, we read hundreds of mixed reviews from strangers who might not want the same things we want. Not to mention the tons of reviews that might not even be real.
What it is: A social media app that allows people to type up to 140 characters of text with an image or video attachment. Strangers can “follow” you and read all the news they want. It is used primarily for news and communication. Businesses want you to read their blogs. News outlets want to be the first to break a story. Twitter has become more popular than some news stations. Additionally, people share tweets from others and randomly answer questions of people or businesses they do not know. People love to follow celebrities, because…well, they are people too, I guess?
What we used to do: Call someone on the telephone. Read the newspaper or watch the 11 o’clock news. Make plans to meet up with someone. Read trashy magazines to find out the latest celebrity gossip. We made an effort to get the information we wanted. We did not sit on the toilet while collecting all this information in one place. Heaven forbid we have to pick up a telephone to ask a friend what the latest gossip is. (Did we even care before?)
What it is: Another review website. Although it is still primarily used to review restaurants, it has now become a review website for all types of service businesses. As an app, when we are on the go, it is a great tool to find out which restaurants are nearby, what kinds of reviews they received, what someone’s favorite dish on the menu is, the address, hours and website of the restaurant. This goes for some of the other businesses such as dry cleaners, retail stores, and even electricians.
What we used to do: Drive by. Ask around. Trial and error. “Oh, you went to THAT restaurant? I’m sorry, their food is terrible!” “Well, we had no idea and we’d always wanted to try it since it is two blocks away from our house. “Maybe you’d walk (or drive) by a restaurant on a busy Friday or Saturday to see if it was packed. You’d read restaurant reviews in the newspaper. If you were looking for a service, you would either look through the Yellow Pages, hoping to find a “good” one or you asked someone you trusted. But they would have to look through their Rolodex or random pieces of paper to find the phone number and name. It took effort.
What else do you think has made life either easier or made people lazier? I personally think because we have all this technology at our fingertips (literally), society is bothered by making the extra effort to do the work to find out the information that they need/want/are looking for. Do you think that the “app generation” is making us lazier?