Why I Disable Notifications

Notifications are awesome: Something has happened!

Someone has mentioned you, talked to you, responded to your stuff! On your phone! On your iPad! On every digital device you own! Notifications can be set up to alert you to every remotely notable action other people have taken in your digital life.

And they drive me crazy.

I’ve found that as an enthusiastic digital citizen and as an instructor in an online course in Canvas that I prefer to, I need to, nay, I must disable almost all notifications to stay sane in my digital life. Here’s why:

Notifications distract me from focusing on current tasks.

Every time a notification shows up it pulls me out of deep focus on any other particular task. It’s well established that “multitasking” is almost certainly a myth. Humans are not good at multitasking and need focus to get good work done.

Notifications give me the false sense that I’ve actually “dealt” with something.

I’ve read the email notification. I cleared all the red numbers. I swiped away all the notifications on my phone. That means I’m done, right?

Of course not. In my experience this just tricks me into feeling like I’m “doing work” when really I’m just wasting time clearing notifications.

What are good notifications?

This doesn’t mean I live a notification-free life. Rather, it’s important to only enable notifications in your digital life that actually deserve to interrupt you! My wife texting me deserves to interrupt me. My face being tagged in a Facebook photo usually doesn’t deserve to interrupt me.

I think in our increasingly noisy digital lives, it becomes important to separate the signal from the noise. Notifications turned on for everything is kind of like CAPS LOCK. Who could read an entire article set in capitals? (Actually, this is the schtick of the novelty movie review blog FILM CRIT HULK)

If everything is important, then nothing is important, right?

I’ve long maintained that owning a smartphone is for my convenience, not for everyone else’s. This philosophy spills over into my notification settings.

What do you think? How do you manage notifications in your digital life?