Are our apps driving us crazy?

In his fascinating Ted Talk, neuroscientist Mariano Sigman investigates how the words we say can provide hints at our inner selves. Specifically, he outlines a word-mapping algorithm that can potentially predict the onset of psychosis by monitoring and analysing the words we speak, email, tweet and write in general. According to Sigman’s theory, the state of our mental health can be assessed by how far and fast we jump from one semantic neighbourhood to another — i.e., the level of consistency in our speech within one semantic category. If our verbal streams frequently jump between words that have no direct relation to each other, or that lack ‘semantic coherence’, this may spell trouble for our future mental conditions. But what of all the numerous modern mediums within which our speech is spread across these days? What kind of impact is caused by incoherence in our methods of communication?

At present, there has been no research exploring the effects of all the yo-yoing between different messaging platforms that most of us do on a daily basis just to stay on top of everything. Not to suggest that having a multitude of different messaging apps on our devices might lead to psychosis — although it does sometimes feel that all the jumping between different channels takes its mental toll. But it is now a familiar sentiment of the 21st century that we have ‘too many channels, too many messages, and too much noise’. While developers are constantly launching new messaging apps, these usually offer discrete forms of communication and do not resolve the tedious need to split ourselves across different platforms. It is this ever-growing fragmentation of our methods of interaction that, while perhaps multiplying the ways and channels in which to say something, fails to structure or unify our interactions in a refined and productive way. Communication methods may be more numerous, but genuine communication is scrambling for coherence.

Human communication is, by nature, contextual. We interact across different places, situations and communities. For most of us, it has become the norm to switch between different platforms according to the context, recipient, or both. For instance, you are less likely to use Snapchat or Facebook for sensitive business discussions, just as you are less likely to email your close friends for a chat. We even adjust the tone and structure of our communications according to the platform we are using. While a couple of decades ago you might have just picked up the phone to call someone — no matter if this was an old friend, a business associate or a potential client — today we find ourselves with umpteen ways to communicate, having to keep track of multiple channels and even maintain interactions with the same people across multiple platforms. The last point in particular can lead to confusing situations, for example by blurring the lines between formal and casual types of conversations, or misappropriating our time by being constantly and universally accessible on all platforms.

The fact that existing platforms have so far failed to provide integrated messaging solutions that recognise the nuances in our contexts means that we are left to play musical chairs with our apps, cluttering our device home screens along with our minds, and wasting our time along with our battery life. That’s where Nested comes in. Acknowledging the weakness in current messaging apps, Nested created the ‘Place’ feature, which does away with the problem of switching between apps according to different contexts. Places and sub-places intuitively house your different communal groups and interactions according to their contexts, for example your various professional, social or project/interest-based communities. You can create and be a member of virtual spaces in a way that more accurately reflects your real life communications — with the embedded option to switch seamlessly between formal messages and quick comments. Rather than, for example, having to introduce the context of the topic with every new email sent to your work team or long-term client, or having several different email threads out in cyberspace between the same recipients, you can create Places and more specific sub-places which implicitly recognise the context of your communications. By having the context predetermined — for instance creating a sub-place within your work team’s Grand Place specifically for a short-term contracted project — you avoid ambiguities and enhance efficiency in your communications. Moreover, with the abovementioned option to switch between more formal messages and quicker, casual ones, as well as the ability to send messages to external platforms such as email from within the Nested app, you no longer have to spread yourself out across an ever-increasing number of platforms.

Even without a mapping algorithm of our digital interactions, it is undeniable that constantly switching between various communication methods saps our concentration, productivity and time. The saturation of messaging systems frustrates our communication and even causes apathy, with some preferring to stay aloof from the world of digital communications rather than ride the bewildering merry-go-round of messaging apps. Far from being just the latest communications app, Nested presents a simpler and at the same time more context-based future of messaging. A medium that is attuned to the way we conduct our real life communications, the app to end all apps is finally here.

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