Consider This: Turn Off Your Notifications

How many hours per week do you think you spend looking at your phone? One? Two? Three? Are you being honest with yourself? Are you hesitant to check the actual number? A little worried/embarrassed about what you might discover? I was.

I dare you to check it.

(Iphone users, you can search screen time, Samsung users, it’ll be found somewhere near your battery usage)

Is it more or less than you thought? Honestly, in my case, it was much more than I had originally thought. Which in combination with noticing lower productivity levels from myself, led me to break, and turn off my notifications. Now, I didn’t turn off every single notification- due to work/school/extracurriculars there are some things where I need to know sooner than later. So, I left on messages, phone calls, and emails, but Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, Whats App, and anything similar were turned off, and push notifications were disabled. I definitely had mixed feelings about the process. On the one hand, I knew I was spending an outrageous amount of time on my phone. I had noticed myself waiting on notifications for certain things, as opposed to going about my business until a notification came in. As well, I realized that notifications were becoming a significant impediment to my focus during class. On the other hand, I worried that I would miss something important. What ultimately won me over was the need to make a step in the direction of ridding myself of the suffocating anxiety that was coming with each new ping, ding, and vibration of my phone. So I turned notifications off, things became quieter, and I began to feel some relief.

At first, I still wanted to check constantly. The curiosity of if I was missing something was difficult to manage, but gradually I just forgot about it. While not perfect, I find now that I check these apps with far less frequency than I did before. When I do check, yes, there are notifications waiting for me, but it’s not the end of the world, and because I’m checking when I actually have time, I am more focused on what I am answering with, or contributing to the conversation as opposed to trying to shoot off a response without much thought while I fly out the door for school, or pack up my things after class.

Turning off my notifications has made me think about how I spend my time, devote my thoughts to the online world, and how I devote my time to work. As students we don’t have specific work hours, our classes are staggered, we study when and where we can, and we sleep if we have time. I found that because I was so connected with my phone, and my phone so connected with school/work/extracurriculars that I was never fully disconnecting, and that this in turn was having negative effects on my mental and physical health.

In preparation to write this article I sat down and looked at what other people had to say on the topic (I’ll include a few links below). What stood out to me were the concepts of “Generation Notification Addicts” and micro boundaries.

Generation Notification Addicts is a term used to describe the large cohort of people who for the most part have unwillingly fallen into the trap of being glued to their phone constantly waiting on the next notification. Our dependence on the next tweet, like, message, email, has reached a point where for many, the urge to check their phone is out of their control. Push notifications are exactly that, pushed on us throughout the day and night constantly begging for our attention, and they often succeed. In turning off my notifications I found that I was able to change things from being pushed on me, to me consciously and selectively being able to pull them in. For me, bringing things back into my locus of control allowed me to feel more relaxed about the whole process.

Micro boundaries was the second concept that came up during my background research on the subject. Essentially, in turning off your notifications you set up a small boundary between yourself and social media/technology. It gives you a bit of breathing room without completely alienating yourself from the technology. This is similar to leaving your phone outside your bedroom at night (or at least having it on the other side of the room instead of in or next to your bed). These micro boundaries help us to disconnect from the online world, and reconnect with the real world.

So what are my overall thoughts on the process? After having these notifications off for a bit, I don’t particularly feel any inclination to turn them back on. I think having them off is aiding me in finding a balance between my personal life and my commitments as a whole. Additionally, it has made me more aware of what is and what is not in my locus of control, and I have begun to make more conscious decisions about what I do and don’t allow to affect me. I believe it is important to take stock of how things impact you whether it be a piece of technology, friends, courses, whatever, and then determine if the costs are relative to the benefits. If not, perhaps it’s time to let that thing go. For me, when I really thought about it, I realized that there were more benefits that would come from turning off my notifications than the potential cost of a missed message. (It’s not as if people can’t get ahold of me in other ways.) I hope this article helps you to think about how notifications might be impacting you and if you’re interested in hearing others perspectives on the issue, check out the articles linked below!

 

From Refinery29:

https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/2017/08/166869/phone-notifications-off-health-mental-benefits

 

From The Lifestyle Files:

http://www.thelifestyle-files.com/turning-off-my-phone-notifications/