The Apps That Make Us Happiest are The Ones We Spend The Least Time With

Hint: It’s not Facebook or Instagram.

Image courtesy of Unsplash.

When it comes to user happiness, the best apps are the ones that help people live their everyday lives or connect with the people they’re close to. The worst are time sucks with little value returned to the user.

That’s the story told in data provided to Thrive Global from Moment, an app that monitors how people spend time on their iPhones. (Yes, there’s an Android version coming.)

The above chart combines the average minutes spent per day from half a million users with additional self-reported data on how happy or unhappy they felt with their time spent on a given app. About 20,000 people (or 4 percent of the app’s user base) submitted those additional ratings. The research is part of Moment’s participation in Time Well Spent, the movement for more life-affirming technology.

Google Calendar, Wunderlist (a to-do list app), and Waze (a driving directions and traffic assistant) are clustered in the most-happy space. Users also spend relatively little time on them, like a daily average of 3 minutes for Google Calendar or 15 minutes for Waze. Of the heavy use apps, only Skype (almost 60 minutes a day) and FaceTime (about 40) have high happiness ratings. The unhappiness-producing apps tend toward the timesuck: Facebook, Reddit, Candy Crush.

From a scientific perspective, this isn’t exactly surprising: psychologists are beginning to say that the human brain expects to have other human beings around it, so software that directly enables connection like Skype is helping to fill a core human need, one underscored by other research indicating that loneliness is as big a health risk factor as obesity.

“It’s amazing and scary how much power app designers have to influence your mood and how much you use their product,” Moment founder and iOS developer Kevin Holesh tells Thrive Global. “They shouldn’t have that much power over your feelings, but you’re the one giving them that power by using their app.”

When you realize that everything inside Facebook or YouTube is designed to capture as much of your attention as possible, it’s easier to resist their pull. Seeing that “can help you use these social media apps consciously rather than mindlessly,” says Holesh, who released Moment in June 2014.

Holesh has found an alternative to spending an hour every day scrolling through infinite timelines: he calls his friends.