Tech

The Apps That Kept Me Sane This Year

OPPO Reno 4

2020 was one exhausting d̶e̶c̶a̶d̶e̶ year. There was a lot of things going on. A global pandemic happened.

We went into quarantine and time distortion happened. Here’s a short recap – Meghan and Harry left the Royal family, Locust swarms ravaged parts of Africa, we made WW3 memes, presidential impeachment, Black Lives Matter protests, Shakira and J-Lo had a concert, Chadwick Boseman died, Trump kept threatening to ban TikTok, Everything was cake, Twitter got hacked, the kid who played Home Alone turned 40, Pentagon released classified UFO videos, scientists discovered water on the moon, Biden won and Kamala became the first female Black-American Indian-American vice president-elect in the U.S among other events that defined 2020.

To stay sane amid everything, I resorted to my smartphone and got hooked on several apps.


Netflix

I watched a lot of content on Netlfix – from Tiger King, Queen’s Gambit, The Last Dance, Bridgerton, Challenger: The Final Flight, Spotlight, Schitt’s Creek, Selling Sunset, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Conspiracy, Dick Johnson Is Dead, The Social Network, The Crown, Ozark, The Witches, Away, 365 Days among other major titles.

I am not alone. Netflix and other streaming services saw a lot of new subscribers who binge-watched entire tv-series and movies in a single sitting – from thrillers to documentaries to sitcoms and everything in between.

I had most of these shows play in the background some times – especially ones I’ve previously watched before like Friends.

Stay in orders have accelerated the adoption of streaming services not only for consumers but also for production companies who now have to release new movies and episodes on these streaming services instead of theatres.

Humans hate the unknown and with little information around COVID-19 when it started, I didn’t like the gap and content on Netflix and other streaming sites filled in that void.

Humankind cannot bear very much reality – T.S. Eliot

Spotify

I stream a lot on Spotify and this year, my listening history was off the charts and over the past few months, I checked out a lot of tracks as a coping mechanism.

When the pandemic started, people’s brain’s went into panic mode with intrusive thoughts riddling the mind.

During lockdown, people turned to various activities including meditation, exercise, cooking and listening to music.

Not only did I stream music during work hours but also right before and during my asleep.

I listened to a lot of various lo-fi and chill playlists to help me stay productive. Lo-fi playlist offered a sense of both familiarity and nostalgia which is comforting and perfect for background music during this stressful year.

Ambient playlists also came through right before I slept to soothe my anxieties and help me have a regular sleep schedule.

And I’m not alone, I’ve seen a couple of Spotify Wrapped insights shared on social media of listeners who streamed these calm playlists to get them through this anxiety-ridden year we had little control over.

Twitter

Twitter was one app I had mixed feelings about when the pandemic started. The platform struggled with misinformation and most people got sucked into doomscrollling.

I Komari-ed my Twitter timeline and kept people who posted trustworthy COVID-19 information in my dedicated lists.

So now my timeline is more clean and Twitter is now more enjoyable.

Thanks to Twitter, I have curated lists of actual people I am interested in seeing their tweets – from funny tweets to informational tweets.

I’ve enjoyed news articles being broken down in thread format from some of the smartest people on the platform especially with COVID-related matters including the New York Times’ Apoorva Mandavilli and the Atlantic’s Ed Yong.

You should probably go follow them.

I’ve also come to enjoy the viral videos shared either natively on Twitter or shared from TikTok – these forms of entertainment came in handy to remind me that you can still have fun on Twitter in the middle of an overwhelming year.

TikTok

This has been the TikTok year. The app took over consumers with its rivals trying to copy features that made it viral among Gen Z and millennials – looking at you Twitter and Instagram with your Fleets and Reels respectively.

TikTok now has over 850 million people on it with over 940 million downloads.

I turned to TikTok to entertain me and distract me from this year. One of its key feature is the A.I powered For You page that shows you a never ending stream of videos it thinks you’ll love watching.

TikTok’s For You page has made most of its creators go viral such as Charli D’Amelio and Azziad who later become celebrities.

My For You page has been a waterfall of cat videos, baby videos, dance challenges, carpentry videos food videos, travel videos, satisfaction videos, pets doing funny things, music cover videos, people in sensory deprivation tank videos and other in-between videos. The ambient content leads you to specific TikTok subject matters and niche internet cultures I’ve come to love.

TikTok’s hypnotic algorithm kept me glued to the “For You” page with far more precise recommendations than I would have gotten on other platforms like YouTube.

The recommendation algorithm which determines the endless stream of videos tailored to you has weirdly been really good – each time I opened the app, I was shown a video I didn’t want to watch but needed to see.

My For You page has just been full of quirky videos with different content that feed my own personal interests. The app surprisingly helped sleep quite well after I’ve even found myself spending hours on TikTok passively consuming random videos especially when I’m in bed at night thanks to the hypnotized flow state TikTok induces on its users.

Instagram

I have opened Instagram way more than I should have but then again we’re in the middle of a pandemic and craving for distraction.

But there’s one feature I have loved interacting with. Suggested Posts.

When I opened the app, I would quickly scroll past posts from friends and rush to my paradise inside the app – my suggested posts.

I think I’m probably the only person who loves Suggested Posts.

I recently did a follower cleanup and purged a lot of accounts I followed and was left with meme accounts. Memes are literally the only reason I’m on Instagram and the platform knows that – I get served memes not only on my Suggested Posts but also on my Explore Page.

Opening Instagram for the memes was incredibly comforting in handling the stress that comes from living through a pandemic.

Honourable Mentions

Other apps I got to use to get me through this year include Tumblr(the For You section), FitOn where I tried to stay fit depending on my mood(more often than not, I postponed my sessions – better luck next year), Shudder to stream horror movies – talk about bad timing to watch scary movies in the middle of a pandemic, but the distract was worth it.

I played a few whimsical games with minimal UI and playful design including Two Dots, Transmission and Atomas.

Most of these games required a lot of patience but were addictive nontheless.

These games helped me forget about what was going in the outside world even if it was for an hour.

What apps helped you through 2020?

More articles in this stream:

What’s on My Phone: George Kamau

What’s on My Phone: Kenn Abuya

What’s On My Phone: Kiruti Itimu

What’s on My Phone: June Okal

What’s on My Phone: Saruni Maina

What’s on My Phone: Dickson Otieno

Stay tuned for new entries each week.


Ndungu Jay

Jay is a content creator at nairobitimes.co.ke with more than a year's experience in digital media. Armed with a Degree in Computer Science from Jomo Kenyatta University of agriculture and technology and an article already appeared on a US publication's website, he is exploring his chances of climbing up the Kenyan digital media ladder with a special focus on viral enriching content.
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