On notifications

I hate notifications

I hate vibrations. I hate jingles. I hate LED signals. I hate ringtones. I hate header notifications. I'm just really not a fan. 

I've felt this way for many year, notifications become irksome for me just after University. Over time with devices and apps, it feels like everything wants the right to inform you, to interrupt you and to clamour for your attention at any time. 

That's not what I want from technology. Ever heard the old Victorian saying that "Children should be seen but not heard", I feel the same about technology. There's a lot of new research into technology's affects on humans, but aside from that this constant worship at the altar of notifications is so frustrating. 

Technology should support people,  not the other way around. So I disable almost everything and frequently have my phone in silent mode. 

No, I don't want desktop notifications from your website.

No, I don't want to know who liked my photograph whilst I'm trying to work. 

No, I don't want an email telling met that a friend of a friend re-pinned something. The absolute absurdity of some notifications is jaw-dropping. Some apps or services by default clutter or disturb for the most inconsequential updates. 

Unwanted notifications are an invasion and a distraction. My phone is a Oneplus, and it has a 'do not disturb' button that has 3 settings. I think this is a feature commonly found on iPhones too, but I find it really valuable. I'd love to see other tech and apps comes with a selection of 'quiet mode' settings. Where you can disable most, or all, notifications rather than individually flick off 30 different notification types - although deep customisation is also welcome (thanks Instagram). 

I would like to see apps less intrusive by default, out of respect for people's time and attention.

 The tyranny of unwanted notifications...

The tyranny of unwanted notifications...

Some science

Whilst recently making my way through a mindfulness course, I encountered research that suggests that even when choosing to ignore a notification, it has a negative effect on our brain. Simply knowing that a notification is awaiting attention is distracting and causes task performance to be inhibited. Read it here. 

Anecdotally, research has also shown that the more we employ willpower throughout the day to avoid making decisions (for example, avoiding unhealthy food), the less able we are to resist as the day goes on. Maybe in the morning you're able to resist checking notifications as they come in, but will you be as effective in the evening? 

There's also the fact that on average we tend to check in with our devices an awful lot. About 150 times on average according to this article (I understand 2017 research has found this to have increased slightly) This research came up in my mindfulness course in terms of being mindful with technology. 

Being mindful with technology is about being aware of how reliant I am on it. Being aware of my feelings, motivations and my body whilst using technology. For example, am I scrolling through instagram, but feeling unhappy and is my breathing also quick and shallow (anxious). Well if it is, maybe I need a break. And maybe I should be thinking about what am I hoping to achieve by using an app, rather than using it mindlessly. 

Intent is key I'm finding. Lately I realised that so many times I pick up my phone, almost instinctively and get lost on it for minutes. Even when I do have a concrete goal, such as ticking something off a to-do list app I can easily get distracted before I've completed that. So I'm going to try and be more clear about my motivations with technology. If I want to check my phone, I'm going to tell myself what I'm doing; I want to check my emails, and only my emails. If an email reminds me of a website I want to visit, sure, I'll go and take a look but I'll make it a conscious choice to do so. I see mindfulness with technology as controlling your decision making processes. 

My frustration with notifications is mostly about respect. Technology and apps need to respect people's time. Some notifications can be useful, but I feel that most should only be seen once you choose to open an app. The impact on attention and performance of notifications is a little worrying, but its up to each individual to define their relationship with technology. 


Other cool stuff that I love, that you may like

I'm trying to fill these articles with a bit more variety. Since I tend to see these articles as a catalogue for my own interests, I'm going to start sharing other interesting articles, resources, designs or quotes I encounter. Basically things that have made an impact, and are hopefully useful to a bunch of folks. 

A great article about time management - I've been a fan of James Clear for a while. He tends to write really insightful, well-researched articles. The points he makes in here are really good, and they're definitely things I've been guilty of at one point or another. 

Listen to an awesome story about finding joy and contentment - I first heard about this story on NPR Storycorps, and I had to find out more and fortunately I found this podcast episode. I've listened to it more than a few times, and it gives me a sense of groundedness and hope each time. 

A great podcast episode about travels and taking life by the horns - Sadly, the Shaping Sapiens podcast appears to be on pause. But I took a lot of joy and inspiration from this story, if you want some motivation to plan a huge road trip or adventure then this might suit you. You can check out more at www.shapingsapiens.com/

So. I've ranted about notifications. I've shared some interesting stories. I think that's it for this week folks!

Much love,