Phone Notifications are Evil

Maybe you are just one click away from a better life

Photo by Yahdi Romelo on Unsplash

I was not a cellcoholic — a person addicted to a cellphone. My high school has a rule forbidding the use of handphones during studying hours. I was constantly without a phone for eight straight hours.

The situation changed when I went to college. There is no such rule; I can pick up my phone almost anytime. Moreover, everyone else is doing. It makes it more acceptable to check my phone anytime I wish.

I was, then, a cellcoholic. I promptly responded to a myriad of notifications: emails, messages, or random online shop promotions. When the phone rang, I grabbed it and checked it out. What if it is an important message? What if it is an amazing 1-hour-only promotion? I could not wait; it made me anxious.

Then I stumbled upon this article that transformed the way I see notifications.

When we respond to notifications, we respond to other people’s agendas.

It is equivalent to prioritizing others’ work/business over yours. I am not that kind of person.

I am lucky to be born a bit selfish. I often do what I need to do, according to my priority. Not everyone likes it, but it makes my life manageable and enjoyable. Unfortunately, I realized I was different with and without a phone.

It was bizarre that I quickly respond to notifications. I respond to notifications because that is their purpose: they need an immediate response. In a more candid delivery, It tries to hog your attention.

I decided to mimic the way I behave in real life. I want to finish my tasks before helping others finish theirs.

However, I know myself. I cannot wait to open notifications. Looking at the new email notification gives me anxiety. Hence, I decided to alter my environment instead of my behavior by muting my phone for a whole day. After doing it for a few weeks, here are my thoughts about it.

The Pros

We pick our phones deliberately

I feel a sense of power when I only grab my phone when I want to. Previously, I check it out because I wanted to and because notifications told me to. Now, I have full control of the when and why.

This habit may not reduce our phone usage, but it will let us use it when we want to.

We get into “the zone” more effortlessly

When I had my notifications on, I was easily distracted. Responding to emails and chats were reasonable, but the notifications from those online shops were annoying. They did not serve me any value, plus they distracted me when I needed to focus. Muting my phone helps me combat this silly habit of mine.

When distractions are sparse, it is easier to concentrate. When we are uninterrupted for some time, we unconsciously switch to a higher gear. That is called the flow or the zone. You can check it out here if you want to.

We respond to several notifications at once, hence more efficient

It is related to point number one; it is our conscious decision to pick up our phones. We may receive zero or stacks of notifications at once. When the latter is the case, it is more efficient to respond to each of them in one go. Eventually, we save our time, and we can return to our current tasks.

We feel less FOMO over time

When I tried this habit, I felt like I might miss a lot of things. My friends might try to reach me. My parents might try to call me. The world might be collapsing. The alien might be arriving. Well, I imagine many things.

Guess what, nothing much happens when I leave my phone. Sure, I will miss a few things or two on the news, but do I need it that quick? I don’t think so.

We feel less overwhelmed

No notifications mean fewer people are nagging us on something unimportant to us (if it were important to us, we would be doing it now). Since people are “silenced” all the time, we can focus on things that truly matter. Hence, we are doing ourselves a favor by doing things sequentially, according to their importance relative to us (not to the others).

We live in the moment

You are having a conversation with friends, and a pop-up catches your attention. You switch focus, and there goes the good bonding opportunity.

To me, it isn’t pleasant to see the other side of the conversation quickly attend to a pop-up. I feel insulted. Your friends might be thinking the same way.

When we mute our phones, we can still check them out if the conversation is dull or uninteresting. The difference is that we can relish the conversation when the opportunity arrives. It feels great to connect with people.

The Cons

We need the grit to stop checking our phones

It is difficult not to touch our phones for one hour. Initially, you will feel FOMO and left out. This habit requires willpower, but the outcome is rewarding.

We miss essential notifications

This is the only drawback I can reckon. A few days ago, a parcel was slated to be delivered to me. I missed the courier’s phone call, and I needed to wait for another day for my parcel to arrive. I guess this is the only sacrifice I must make.

A workaround for this issue is to silence your notifications while keeping your ringtone at a normal level.

The Verdict

This new habit has given me more time and freedom to do things that matter to me. It also allows me to get into “the zone” quicker than ever. Hence, I become more productive and efficient. The quality of my work also significantly improves because of the additional focus I can put into them. Although I missed some important notifications along the way, I am still fine. The benefits outweigh the disadvantages.

So, put the phones on mute, shall we?

A simple person who loves philosophy, good food, and dogs. I write articles on communication, self-help, and occasional coding stuff. A HUGE F.R.I.E.N.D.S fans.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store