4 Reasons to Avoid Starting With a Meditation App Today

Hey there! If you‘re thinking about trying meditation for the first time, you may be considering downloading a handy app to help out. After all, we use apps for everything these days – they‘re just so convenient!

But while meditation apps are popular, there are a few important downsides to watch out for. I‘ve analyzed the landscape thoroughly as a long-time tech professional and meditator. Here‘s my insider take on 4 key reasons why, for most people, apps probably aren‘t the best way to start a new meditation habit.

Overview of the Key Drawbacks

Before we get into the nitty gritty details, here‘s a high-level view of why meditation apps can fall short for those just getting started:

  1. They increase device time: Contrary to helping you unplug, apps tether you back to the tech causing overwhelm in the first place
  2. Overchoice makes it hard to pick one: With hundreds available, analysis paralysis sets in trying to pick the "right" app to download
  3. Content isn‘t personalized: Pre-set options may not help you meet your specific meditation objectives
  4. Long-term costs add up: Ongoing subscriptions and in-app purchases pile on, making free apps less of a deal

Now let‘s explore each issue more closely…

1. Meditation Apps Feed Digital Addiction vs. Curing It

For many people, one of the main appeals of meditation is to spend less time glued to devices like smartphones and tablets that contribute to burnout.

Research has clearly linked excessive screen time to rising stress and anxiety levels. For example, a large Gallup study found the more devices we use simultaneously, the more stressed we feel on average:

Devices Used At Once% Reporting Stress Yesterday
032%
134%
238%
351%
4+62%

Yet by their very nature, meditation apps force you to immediately ingest more content from a screen.

This seems totally counterproductive if you‘re attempting to give your mind a break from the digital bombardment of texts, emails, videos, and posts.

As monk Haemin Sunim shared with Mindful magazine:

"It‘s good to remind ourselves that meditation originally came from retreating into nature or going into long-term silence. It wasn’t about depending on another app on your phone.”

In other words, you have to question whether trying to meditate via a device will truly help you find the inner peace you‘re seeking if that very same device is part of the stress-inducing problem!

2. Endless App Options Leads to Decision Fatigue

If you walk into any app store today and search for "meditation", you‘ll instantly face what scientists call "overchoice". For example, Google Play currently offers 670 meditation apps in their store:

Faced with so many options, analysis paralysis sets in. With so many apps, how do you determine which is the "right" one suited for your needs as a beginner?

  • Should you go with the most popular mainstream apps like Calm or Headspace?
  • Would you be better served choosing an app focused specifically on the type of meditation you want to learn, like breathwork or transcendental options?
  • What about free apps versus paid subscriptions – which offers the best value?

There‘s simply no easy way to make the "optimal" choice with so many competing options. So you end up stuck in decision fatigue, unable to move forward because too much choice exists.

And if you finally make a choice but the app doesn‘t vibe with you after that initial download? Be prepared to go through this whole exhausting process again looking for alternatives.

3. Pre-Set Content May Not Support Your Goals

Another key shortcoming of meditation apps is the content is fixed rather than tailored specifically to you.

These apps feature pre-set sessions covering certain topics, techniques, or formats. But there‘s no guarantee this generalized content will help you accomplish your personal objectives for wanting to start meditating in the first place.

For example, say you primarily want to use meditation to help reduce chronic back pain issues. You may find that the content served up by your chosen app mainly focuses on reducing anxiety instead. This mismatch means you‘ll struggle to experience the benefits you hoped for.

Without an adaptive human guide like an experienced meditation teacher, app-based content stays static. The onus stays on you to attempt finding the right session that hopefully aligns with your needs as a meditator. This makes achieving your goals more difficult and precarious.

4. Beware the Costs of "Free" Meditation Apps

Lastly, don‘t assume that just because an app looks free at first glance you won‘t end up paying in the long run. For example, industry leader Calm promises "free forever" access.

But read the fine print and you‘ll notice there‘s only a tiny sliver of content unlocked in their large program without eventually paying up:

Their premium subscription rings up at a steep $69.99 annually. And you must maintain constant payment to retain full access – stop paying and your account downgrades automatically.

Here‘s a breakdown of what popular meditation apps actually cost for unlimited access:

App1 Month Cost1 Year Cost
Headspace$12.99$69.99
Calm$14.99$69.99
Insight Timer$9.99$59.99

So while presented as "budget friendly", when calculated these apps end up extracting hundreds of dollars over time. That piles on yet another monthly bill when simplicity and frugality may be what attracts you to meditation in the first place!


As you can see, relying on apps as your entrypoint into meditation comes with quite a few drawbacks for the average beginner. I‘d suggest starting your practice instead using books, podcasts, or finding an in-person group class first to avoid landing in these pitfalls!

Let me know in the comments if you have any other questions!

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