WeCroak is an elegant app that doesn’t do much—but it will still cost you 99 cents in the app store. It simply reminds you that you are going to die. And more importantly, these morbid reminders may make you happier.
“You are encouraged to take one moment for contemplation, conscious breathing or meditation when WeCroak notifications arrive,” WeCroak’s website explains, referencing a Bhutanese folk saying that you must contemplate death five times a day to be happy. “We find that a regular practice of contemplating mortality helps spur needed change, accept what we must, let go of things that don’t matter and honor things that do.”
This encouragement for acceptance of death reminds me of the final season of Mad Men, which I know is a slightly outdated reference in our new world of Netflix binging. But you may recall that Betty Hofstadt (formerly Draper) refuses chemotherapy for her lung cancer in those final episodes. She knew that suffering through treatment for just an extra month of life was not really for her, but for her loved ones. This is the one act of maturity that the show gives her, a ’60s housewife who grew up with no agency of her own—allowed to make peace with death and keep doing the thing she loves most: smoking in the kitchen, which is how we see Hofstadt in her last scene.
And so, five times a day at random times (“just like death,” the website notes), the app will send you a push notification: “Don’t forget, you’re going to die.” And then you can swipe to reveal a quotation related to death—and life. This morning, I woke up to a quotation by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Zona Gale (who is dead): “When you look at a corpse you can always sense your own breath better.” A little too serious for me to have alongside my morning coffee, and I’m not the only person who thinks so. “Next to other mindfulness apps, WeCroak is a serious downer,” Bianca Bosker wrote at the Atlantic. But WeCroak does have a sense of humor about mortality.
The WeCroak Twitter account is where the app’s personality comes out. With death perennially on the horizon, why eat frozen dairy product when you could eat full fat ice cream?
But that doesn’t mean it’s not a product of Silicon Valley and its obsession with optimizing the body—as a matter of fact, its co-founders are app developer Ian Thomas and publicist Hansa Bergwall, two friends who met through Airbnb. (How’s that for an Airbnb ad?) Thomas had rented a room in Bergwall’s Brooklyn apartment, a friendship was later born—and on July 26, the app was approved and launched in Apple’s App Store.
But unlike other apps that claim to help us with productivity but actually take up more time, the average total time spent on WeCroak every day is only 36 seconds. That’s because there’s nothing to swipe, nothing to do on the app but look at your quotation of the moment. Go on, get some ice cream.