Will The ‘One Sec’ App Help Kill My Social Media Addiction?

Photographed by NATALIA MANTINI.
I’m pretty sure I have dents in both my pinky fingers from the way I hold my phone. Like the way a pencil grip can form a writer's callus, my rectangular companion has left a ghost mark. That’s the thing with the ‘digital native’ generation; most of us have grown up with a phone in our back pockets. I have spent more time with my phone than with my cousins or honing literally any craft.
Instagram, TikTok, Tumblr, BeReal… whatever your poison, the many apps that plague our phones are highly addictive. The rise of sleep and mental health issues mirror our high screen times. 
I've tried a lot of different methods to try and curb my phone addiction. I switch off my notifications, I force myself to have screen-free days (okay, maybe just screen-free hours), and I've even considered changing my entire phone display to black and white.
So when I saw a TikTok video talking about an app called ‘One Sec,’ I was intrigued. “You hook it up to your shortcuts app in your iPhone and it will basically make you take a breath before you open whatever app you've designated,” TikTokker @miriam_tinny explains. “[It’s] truly a fascinating app, right? Like really just taking a beat changes everything… It makes you sit there and think, ‘do I really want to open this app, what is my motivation?’.”
Her enthusiasm had me immediately downloading the free app and testing it out for myself.

How Does The ‘One Sec’ App Work?

Through using your smartphone’s shortcut automation tools (admittedly a feature I had never used before), One Sec triggers an additional screen before you enter the app of choice — a digital cock block, if you will.
The founder of the app, Frederik Riedel, previously took to Twitter to explain his thought process behind the simple, yet effective, idea. “The immediate effects [of this app] are that you‘ll become aware of your unconscious social media habits, [like] opening Instagram while waiting for the bus, just because you’re bored. This is often not an aware decision."
"And taking a deep breath helps you to reflect on yourself in that moment. Long term, ‘One Sec’ increases the effort of opening a particular app. This makes it less likely that you open an app just like that,” he says. 
The free version of the app is limited in its range of functions — you can only use ‘One Sec’ for a single chosen app. In the paid version, there are multiple intervention and automation options like scheduling, intentional app switching, app closing reminders, time tracking, website blocking and focus sessions.

Will It Really Help Me Spend Less Time On My Phone?

I’ve been trialling this app for three weeks and can confirm that it is annoying. Obviously this frustration is by design, since it aids users by making their use of social media more difficult and painstaking. The setup that I have chosen means that there is a six-second delay when I try to enter Instagram — and I have to tap through a few options on the screen to properly launch the app.
Creator Riedel said that his own screen time was down by more than 40% after two weeks of use. In a study with the University of Heidelberg and Max Planck Institute, 280 participants used ‘One Sec’ for six weeks and found that the app reduced the actual opening of apps by 57%.
“I found this app very useful for getting me out of the pattern of ending up on social media without meaning to. My thumb will just take me there! Now this app gives me a chance to change my mind,” reads one Apple review.
“It more often than not asks you to upgrade to pro instead of giving you the one deep breath exercise which makes me more annoyed than helps me to be mindful. I like the idea but it’s too buggy in general and too spammy with their subscription service which is also overpriced,” another person criticises. 
Unfortunately, however, ‘One Sec’ hasn’t altered my screen time that much; my time spent on Instagram is still embarrassingly high. But it has created a barrier between myself and the dopamine hit that is tapping an app and seeing a buzz of red notifications calling my name.
In our current landscape, where digital conglomerates rule the world, our self-control is no match for the algorithm. But apps like ‘One Sec’ do help counter — however imperfectly — the firm grip that social media has on us. And anything that takes our phone addictions seriously is a win in my book.
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