In a very “sign of the times” move, Apple announced last week that its app of the year is Calm, a meditation app that helps users “reduce anxiety, sleep better and feel happier,” according to Calm’s website.
The app offers guided meditations and “sleep stories” to listen to when you need help nodding off. The guided meditations are hyper-specialized, including one called “non-judgement” designed to help “quiet your inner critic” and another series called “7 days of self-esteem.”
The fact that people seem to want to better themselves and exist in a calmer, more thoughtful state is not specific to 2017. But in the context of 2017, where push notifications remind us of yet another breaking news event seemingly every ten minutes and social media continues to complicate literally everything, this app stands out as an important reminder of how people are coping with today’s chaos by turning inwards.
This app also stands out from the others that Apple highlighted for 2017. In a piece about the App of the Year announcement for Slate, Christina Bonnington notes that Apple pinpoints four breakout trends from the past year in the company’s post: augmented reality apps and games, like Pokemon Go, real-time competitive gaming, mental health and mindfulness apps and storytelling and reading apps.
But meditation and mindfulness are notable on this list because the other three categories “curiously align themselves with areas hyped by Apple at its September iPhone event and at WWDC, its annual developer conference,” Bonnington writes. That makes the emphasis on mental health and mindfulness feel like a “genuine trend,” she adds.
And if you’ve read the news recently (or tried to escape it), you know that meditation and mindfulness are very much part of the zeitgeist right now. But it’s more than that: this app encapsulates how our devices have to be part of that shift. Bonnington points out that the most downloaded apps of the year included Snapchat, YouTube and Bitmoji. “These may have been the most downloaded, but they don’t capture the essence of an iPhone user in 2017: Someone desperately trying to unwind, but unable to separate themselves from their phone.”
And while other tech behemoths may try to encourage us to be more thoughtful and deliberate about how we use their technology, these efforts are often bungled. Look no further than Facebook’s Year in Review videos, which included natural disasters and tragedies as highlights and were widely criticized for failing to recognize that “social media isn’t fun anymore,” as Loren Grush writes for The Verge.
The short version is that we’re seeking more mindful, intimate and thoughtful relationships with ourselves, and since technology today is inextricable from who we are, we’re looking for apps that help us stop spending our lives scrolling through feeds and start actually living and enjoying them.
Read more on Slate.