Beep, blip, ding! These are some of the noises we are used to hearing on a regular basis as those around us get notifications of voicemails, email and social media messages, comments or likes. This is a relatively new behaviour brought about by the well connected technological world in which we live.
Even though there are many positives from the ability to have instant access to pretty much whoever or whatever we want or need, there are also many negatives which are quickly brushed away by those who are arguably addicted to those notification noises. Being needed feels good, so it’s totally understandable.
So let’s explore some of the negative effects of being available for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Do these notifications interrupt your sleep, your work, your meals, your time spent with loved ones or something else? Do you instantly race to check your phone when your hear the notification sound? Are you constantly checking for new notifications when you’re supposed to be doing something else or spending time with people in the real world?
Being always available takes a huge amount of time and energy that we’re not built to be able to give.
I was in my late teens when mobile phones became widely available, but at this point in time, 1997, there were only a few others with phones which were mainly used for calls, the occasional text message and the odd game of snake. As phones developed year on year and their abilities grew alongside the number of users, I slowly realised how I was starting to receive more and texts and calls at inconvenient times. Even though it was nice to feel needed, it also became a great way for people to take advantage of my good nature by putting me in difficult situations that it was tough to say no to. In the process of me trying to become more confident and assertive I decided to switch my phone to silent mode, allowing me to choose when I would check my messages and voicemails and reply to them. This slowly set the expectation among others that they would have to wait for a response. This was a great way to thin out the numbers of those who really wanted to be friends and those who just wanted me as a psuedo-emergency service. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
This decision has helped me have better sleep and be more productive on both personal and professional projects as I’m not interrupted by these notifications.
One of the biggest arguments I hear about turning off notifications is based on classic FOMO otherwise known as the fear of missing out. On a personal level people have become accustomed to being instantly connected at all hours and don’t want to be out of the loop in their social groups. As I mentioned earlier from my own experience, the people who really care and who are worth staying in touch with won’t care if you don’t reply for a while. From a professional level, if someone really wants to contact you they will leave a voicemail and/or send an email that can be replied to at a convenient time. If you work for yourself then it’s up to you to manage your time effectively to create a good life/work balance, and if you work for someone else then stick to the hours you’re paid for, otherwise you devalue your services and set the expectation too high for what can realistically be achieved in the time for which you’re being paid. Both of these scenarios require a level of self confidence and assertiveness in order to draw the line for both yourself and the people with expectations of you. Once you can be tough on yourself in how you manage your availability, it becomes easier to let other people understand it too.
All of this new technology has appeared in our lives fairly quickly and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down, so even though it’s advantageous in some respects, we the human race, have potentially let it control us to the point of it bringing on some negative effects which are only recently starting to be understood. If we want to use predominantly the positive aspects of modern technology then it’s up to us to make the appropriate adaptations and set the standard for future generations.