“What do you mean you don’t have notifications on for emails and only check it a couple of times a day? I am still getting notifications on my phone as they arrive, so why aren’t you?”
I was incredulous. The very idea that my husband didn’t get a red dot on his home screen that alerted him to the fact I had sent a message that needed his urgent attention horrified me. That after being together for 17 years I was only just learning I may be ignored for HOURS until HE decided to check his phone before getting a response was news to me. News that had we not been doing 70mph at that point would have resulted in one of us being forcibly removed from the car.
Sharing this new found knowledge on Instagram stories, expecting multiple variations of “what? How can somebody have notifications turned off?!” I was even more shocked to learn that it was me who was in the minority. That nobody had notifications turned on. Not just for email, but for Whatsapp, text messages and all social media platforms. When I wrote about turning off the outside world in the evenings a few years ago I didn’t realise that people had taken this to what I see to be the extreme, and made it all day every day.
I started to wonder who these people could be my friends.
Then slowly on my timeline articles like this one began appearing: Six months without phone notifications has changed my life and I realised that I needed to change the way I used my phone. Or rather how it used me.
It took this conversation with Mr B for me to realise that every ding and red dot with a steadily growing number inside is akin to being poked in the ribs by a co-worker. It’s an annoying voice that says “hey, hey, hey, read me. Stop what you are doing. Put that down. Read me now. Seriously”. So you stop what you are doing, open the app, only to find the the email is an offer of either Russian girls waiting for your call, a discount offer for a shop you only ever shopped in once six years but they insisted on taking your email address and you appear to now be on their mailing list, or Viagra for $5. If the notification is for Facebook then it will more than likely be from somebody you haven’t spoken to in eight years asking you to take a Facebook quiz that will tell the world what kind of a Disney Princess you are, and give some unknown data mining company access to all your photos and friends list should you take part.
These aren’t notifications, they are interruptions but if the various platforms used that wording people would automatically disable them because let’s face it, nobody likes interruptions. They are a clever marketing ploy by tech companies to draw us back on to the platforms instantly, in the hope that we will stick around longer and because we can only be on one platform at once, ignore the others.
It was a lightbulb moment, why would I want to be still getting phone notifications? What if I thought of them as interruptions instead?
By turning off these notifications the world still turned. Not responding to a message within 15 seconds didn’t tell my friends I hated them, in fact I am fairly certain not one of them noticed. I have been able to focus more on what I am doing and not be distracted every eight seconds by another ding or red dot, losing my train of thought in the process. Wasting time as I then had to remember what it was I had been doing before the last Disney invite or spam email. It now means I can check for emails or updates when I want to, when I am not in the middle of something else. It puts me back in control.
I wish I had done it years ago. Just tell Mr B that he was right.
At least with his notifications off he won’t see for hours that I have written this post.