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February 3, 2020

Why everyone needs a notification detox

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I've never been one for ubiquitous notifications: I limit them to email and texts, with only the little red dots to apprise me of their presence: no banners, no sounds, no vibrations.

Elle Hunt's Guardian essay of January 27, 2020 took a deeper dive: excerpts follow.

When we talk about the fragmenting effect of technology on our attention, or the dopamine hits that keep us refreshing our feeds as if they are buttons on fruit machines, we are often thinking about notifications: the pings, pop-ups, and glowing red dots that pull us back into our phones, and push us from app to app.

According to one small study conducted in 2014, mobile phone users receive an average of 63.5 alerts every day, with most viewed within minutes — whether the phone is on silent or not.

A 2016 study by Deloitte found that people check their phone, on average, 47 times a day — often in response to alerts.

These might be messages from friends, family, your boss, or your bank.

They might be breaking news alerts, or reminders to drink water or meditate, or simply apps alerting you to their presence on your phone.

Regardless of what the notifications say or if you opted to receive them, the cumulative effect can be overwhelming.

Over the course of a day, notifications are an interruption, affecting your focus and performance.

A 2015 study from Florida State University found that, among students sitting a test that required their sustained attention, any audible interruption from their phone negatively affected the results.

Just hearing the ping of a notification was equally as distracting as actually taking a phone call, suggesting to the researchers that "mobile phones can disrupt attention performance even if one does not interact with the device."

It is that sense of being derailed that is increasingly leading people to turn off all (or nearly all) of their notifications.

Even Apple's chief executive, Tim Cook, owned up to having "gutted" his own notifications, and encouraged all iPhone users to do the same.

"It's not something that is adding value to my life, or is making me a better person."


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Ms. Hunt is the author of an audio book and e-book titled "Why Everyone Needs a Nemesis."

It's based on a short piece published in the Guardian last year.

Here's a summary:

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I've never met nor corresponded with Ms. Hunt.

In fact, the first I ever heard of her was when I read her recent Guardian piece excerpted above.

Her book, pictured above, costs £1.99 here.

Like every pixel-stained wretch I've ever known, I'm sure she can use the money.

Her pricing strategy is much smarter than mine with my book, which still costs less than a buck: 99 cents, to be precise.

I'm old enough to remember the '60s Kentucky Fried Chicken (that was before the company bowed to the health wave and restyled itself KFC so as not to have "Fried" in the name) commercial that went "Corn 'n' Cluck for under a buck."

But I digress.

Any book that costs less than a dollar prolly isn't worth the paper it's printed on.

Wait a sec, joe — that's for the Kindle version, the paper iterations are $10.95 and $20.95 for the paperback and hardcover, respectively.

So it's all good then, right?

February 3, 2020 at 02:01 PM | Permalink


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