I see you, internet-connected person, complaining that you’re a slave to your phone and to the notifications that won’t stop coming. It seems like every day, an app finds a new reason it needs to disturb the few moments of quiet you’ve got left. You did this to yourself. But you can be saved.
For years this was my life: Tweet buzz text buzz email buzz friend request buzz favourite buzz. Every single message I got from anyone popped up on my phone. And I wilfully played along. Oh Carlos commented on my Facebook status, I shall respond with a quip. Oh I have a new match on Tinder, let me send her a horse head emoji.
Like so many people who work online, I am terrified of being even a moment late to an email; I dread missing the breaking news by more than 30 seconds. If I’m not part of the conversation that’s happening all the time, do I even exist? If I don’t respond immediately to a message from a friend, will they forget about me? Sometimes I feel like I’ve had an unbelievably stressful and overwhelming day, and when I look back, all I see is 750 hastily written words. The rest of a nine hour slog was spent on 30 internet conversations of one kind or another that just couldn’t wait.
And then I turned off notifications. All of them. And I did it sort of by accident. After a particularly stressful run at work, I took a holiday and I just deleted everything from my phone: Twitter, Gmail, Facebook, the works. Things I needed — texts, for example — I silenced, so that I had to actually take out my phone to check for notifications. Pull, not push. Eventually, I learned how not to check my phone every two minutes to see what I’d missed.
When I returned from my holiday, I just kind of left notifications off and yet the world still hasn’t ended!
I still use some notifications sometime, and yeah, I’m still mindlessly on my phone while standing in line waiting for a cold brew. But I don’t miss the notifications I left behind.
Maybe you’re not as overloaded. Maybe a notification vacation isn’t for you. But just remember that you don’t have to just accept all the buzzing and beeping technology does to try to get your attention. If you don’t take control of your notifications, they will take control of you.
Illustration by Tara Jacoby