Unplugged: My Life Without Notifications

December 31, 2017--- New Year’s Eve. A pretty regular day when you’re stuck working a 4p.m. closing shift and won’t be home until after the New Year starts. It can get you thinking, though. Thinking about who you were last year, who you want to be next year, and how you can get there.

First semester of college wasn’t the best for me, no one would know that, though. I was obsessed with making sure I regularly updated social media so everyone from home knew how much fun I was having. I needed everyone to know my life could measure up to theirs. Everyone from home just had to know I was having just as much fun as they seemed to be.

If anyone from high school posted a story on Instagram, I saw it. Whenever the girl I met at that one party and added on Snapchat posted, I saw it. VSCO, Twitter, even Facebook, my eyes were glued to timelines in some disheveled manner to memorize who was doing what. I needed to know, in case anyone ever asked, I wanted to be the one who knew that the guy I went to middle school with broke up with his girlfriend. I needed to know the girl I haven’t seen since I was ten was transferring schools. I liked being the one who knew what was going on with everyone I had ever met, and with every celebrity possible. But despite knowing seemingly everything, I was pretty miserable. Everyone was having fun, and I only looked like I was.

That night I found myself scribbling down some half-assed resolutions; goals I figured if I met then I would finally be happy. Like everyone else, most of my resolutions didn’t stick. The only one I really committed to was putting down my phone more. Now don’t get me wrong, I am still the first person to take my phone out to take a picture when I want to. But I have gone from 8+ hours on social media to restricting myself to only one hour a day.

I turned off notifications for each of my social media apps and any other app that I felt was not important to keep. My phone still rings when I get a call or Facetime and I have my messaging/e-mail apps set so that badges (the little red circles with numbers in them) still show up. Professors and student organizations communicate through a number of these apps and so I keep badges on, but I still only see them if I have unlocked my phone.

It's been a year and a half, and I can confidently tell you the benefits are vast. My phone battery lasts the entire day now (that is when my Red Alert isn’t blowing up my phone-- no pun intended). People I am not as close with know I’m unlikely to respond and have stopped asking me for favors. My social anxiety and general anxieties have almost completely stopped restricting me from living my life. And best of all, I spend more time talking on the phone than anything else. No one calls anymore, but my friends know if they need to talk to me then they should call.

The whole experience hasn’t been smooth--- in the beginning I was always tempted. I spent more time on my phone checking to see if I was missing something; if you ask any of my friends, they’ll tell you they’ve seen me type in my ‘Time Limit’ password a million times but as time has gone on I have gotten much more used to it. I check my phone enough and I am far from being fully unplugged but it’s a step in the right direction.

Sometimes it’s still hard. I have missed out on things because someone invited me through Snapchat and I didn’t see it, but it is amazing how much my brain can store when it isn’t busy trying to keep up with everyone else. I might not know Kim Kardashian’s newest baby's name, but my friendships have become much more genuine. It’s incredible to sit in a room, just talk with my friends, and be fully invested. I am no longer so distracted by my phone and I truly haven’t been this happy in a while.

Most of the people around me are still plugged in, and that’s okay. To each their own, obviously. Sometimes it gets very tempting when everyone else is on their phone to just give in and start scrolling and sometimes I do, but sometimes I don’t. I used to sit in a crowded room with my nose glued to my screen; turning my notifications off has allowed me to stick my phone in my pocket and meet so many new people. In general, I just feel a whole lot more present in my own life.

I would highly recommend turning notifications off to anyone who feels stuck in their life and is looking for something new to try. Happy unplugging!