App That Claims to Cure My Fear of Spiders Is a House of Spidery Lies



GateHouse — I fear only two things in this hard cold world: Heights and spiders. That’s it. Well, I’m also sort of afraid of whales. Because they’re monstrous, and they live in the hard cold sea. I know everyone’s all like “But they’re harmless filter feeders who live on krill and plankton and sing songs to each other and occasionally save the Starship Enterprise,” yeah well that’s what the liberal media wants you to believe. What if they’re actually eating dolphins and cows and old pirates? You just don’t know about whales, is what I’m saying. (I’m also afraid of opening tubes of cinnamon rolls, because you never know when that POP is coming. Oh, and clowns, God, how did I forget about clowns? And the Incredible Hulk. And hot air balloons. Riding on a hot air balloon, are you kidding me, it’s like climbing into a basket containing your own death and then sending it 5,000 feet into the air. I’d rather swim around in a clown car full of whales.)

Anyway, apparently I’m not alone in these fears — well, at least one of them — because there is a new app designed to help people squash their arachnophobias.

The app is called Phobia Free and before you ask, no, of course I haven’t downloaded it. This is for two reasons:

  1. It’s like four bucks, and I don’t know how much you think newspapers pay these days, but I assure you it’s less than four bucks and
  2. That would indicate I want to cure this fear of spiders. I don’t. I’m comfortable with it. It and I have made it 38 happy years, we see no need to go “improving ourselves” now.



I will say, however, that the app’s mascot is an adorable pink spider with a bow in her hair and long fluttery eyelashes, which IN NO WAY RESEMBLES THE VICIOUS, BLOODTHIRSTY DEATHSPIDERS THAT EXIST IN REAL LIFE, and don’t try to tell me otherwise, I’ve seen the microscope pictures. I’ve seen people let actual tarantulas crawl around their hands, and not a single of them had a bow tie. I haven’t even downloaded this app yet, and I know it’s a lie. (Please note that there is no mascot adorable enough to make this work for me, and I don’t care how insensitive that sounds to animal- or insect-rights activists. I will drive over one of God’s creatures with a hay baler and smile about it, even if it’s wearing a cute bow in its hair. Please direct all hate mail c/o this newspaper.)


Related, sort of


The app uses “systemic desensitization” — the process of slowly exposing people to that which they fear — to cure users of their phobias. So in order to overcome a fear of, say, let’s just throw out spiders, it will show them spiders. According to the website, which again I am reading because I am so very not doing this, it starts by simulating the pink pig-spider with the hair bow on your hand. It then moves onto a “Low fear spider,” which I am not clicking on, then a “Medium fear spider,” which nope, to a “High fear spider,” which makes me nervous to even type, and finally both “Tarantula” and “Tarantula in augmented reality,” which I’m guessing to mean like a tarantula crawling around “Tron” or something.

(It also encourages you to get support from your friends and family using social tools, which is good, as I definitely need lots of people knowing the length of time it takes me to become comfortable with an adorable pink spider who wears hair accessories and also doesn’t exist.)

But who knows, maybe one day I’ll give it a shot. And if the spider version works, maybe I’ll take a swing at the one for heights, or clowns, or opening myself up emotionally to another human being. But for now my phone and I will be happy doing what we usually do: Selfies and beating loved one at Words With Friends. If I keep those up, I won’t have time for arachnophobia anyway.

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About Jeff Vrabel

Writer for GQ, Time, Men's Health, Billboard, the official Bruce Springsteen site, Paste, Nickelodeon and The South Magazine. View all posts by Jeff Vrabel

10 responses to “App That Claims to Cure My Fear of Spiders Is a House of Spidery Lies

  • Renee

    That pink thing is an insect, not an arachnid; it only has 6 legs. I bought a pet tarantula for my daughter’s 6th birthday (she’s 19 now and still wants to be an entomologist). Be careful when they look like they are scratching themselves; that’s when they are trying to flick barbed hairs into your eyes. It’s a clever trick that works on potential predators; just don’t get too close. Hope that helps. ;-)

    P.S. You are in good company; the entomologist at San Jose State University is afraid of spiders, too. Don’t tell him I told you.


    • Jeff Vrabel

      Gah! You’re right! That’s clearly not a spider! Also wait go back to the part where you bought a tarantula for your 6-year-old daughter. ALSO wait go back to the part where you know how tarantulas trick prey. ALSO WAIT AGAIN you know the entomologist at San Jose State? There are like 20 stories in this comment, for reals.


  • ashleyomelia

    Thanks for the laugh! Great post! Hire would they do an app to cure social anxiety I wonder? Send you on random missions to public places via demanding text messages?


  • Michele McGovern

    I don’t mind spiders…. or whales, or clowns, or hot air balloons…. as long as they stay away from me in their own little happy environment.

    (But truly, it’s a body-size issue with me and the spiders. The larger the body, the larger the threat. Or something like that.)


  • Bradshaw

    Lost in the discussion about phobias is an even bigger issue: You actually beat other people in Words With Friends?


  • Jeff Vrabel



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