Too Many Notifications

The thing that takes me longest to set up on a new phone is the notification settings. It’s configured in each app individually, and it seems like everyone wants to get your attention.

Too many notifications end up one of two ways: tuned out so you don’t notice the important ones, or so much of a distraction that you can’t focus on anything. There are studies showing how long it takes to get your train of thought back after interruptions.

I pare audio alerts down to calls, text messages, and work-related IMs. Then I set custom alert tones for each and for specific phone numbers, so I know instantly which it is. (Assuming of course I remembered to turn on the sound, and it’s not drowned out by ambient noise.) Unfortunately every new phone or OS comes with a different set of alert tones, so it’s a pain to either transfer over the old tones or get used to the new ones.

I have silent email alerts. Social media, but only some sites and only replies or mentions that I might be expected to react to. (Not Facebook, though.) Sure, I want to know if someone’s commented on one of my photos or posts, but I don’t need it to break my concentration. I don’t need an alert for every new post on some site, or every new follower, or some auto-generated roundup.

And it takes me forever to find all those settings, turn off everything else, and change the audio for what’s left. Sometimes it’s several days before something pipes up the first time. I suspect I’m not done yet.

As much as we make all these things interactive, they’re still asynchronous. Except for calls and active chat conversations, I’m better off checking in on email or Twitter or Facebook on my own schedule, not when I’m in the middle of something else.

I can distract myself just fine. I don’t need my phone to do it for me.

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