Turn off your notifications

Updated: Nov 3

The constant notification from different apps can be annoying and addictive. Is it only me?

At the beginning of the year 2021, I decided to be conscious and intentional about what I take in especially with technology and so I decided to turn off my notifications.

I've had a love-hate relationship with my phone for a long time; there are times I just want to turn it off and hide it away never to be seen again but then I realize the things I may be missing out on when I do, like taking notes on the go (I get a lot of random thoughts and ideas no matter where I find myself), reading my books, running a Google search and a lot more.

A few months ago, my charger was faulty so my phone went off until I got a new one; this period of torture lasted for two days. When I say torture, I don't mean to exaggerate, it was really tough for me. I found myself reaching to get my phone when something came in mind to run a search on Google only to find out my phone was off. I placed an order immediately and these two days were one of the longest I have ever experienced. I never thought I was addicted to my phone until that situation happened.

The constant beeping

"It felt depressing and sad seeing so many "friends" view my story without any engagement when I sometimes genuinely need their reaction to certain topics."

There was also the constant beeping notifying you have been missing out. It first started with WhatsApp; I turned off the viewer count on my stories. It felt depressing and sad seeing so many "friends" view my story without any engagement when I sometimes genuinely need their reaction to certain topics. I felt alone and constantly questioned myself if I'm not loved by anyone. To take care of myself and my peace of mind and to also avoid having any resentment against anybody, I turned off the viewer count.

After I turned off my viewer count, I would go back and forth on turning it on and off to see who has at least viewed my status until I didn't care anymore who engaged or not. Then there were other apps like Instagram. This app is most depressing in my opinion; constantly checking who has liked your posts, sent you a dm and the likes. These days even if you have no one engaging with your posts or sending you a dm, the app just reminds you of something everyday; the number of people following you but you don't follow back, one of your contacts being on Instagram and the likes.

Revealing insights

A study on smartphone addiction in 2017 found that notifications can alter your brain chemistry, creating an imbalance in your brain. The study also showed a link between smartphone use and anxiety, depression and impulsivity. In addition, your notifications constantly being on can cause a pattern called 'switch cost'. This is when an interruption such as a notification distracts our attention from a task.

"Notifications, such as someone liking your post, produce dopamine, which makes you feel good," explains environmental psychologist and wellbeing consultant Lee Chambers. "But you can almost become hooked on that feeling. And then suddenly when there are no notifications, you don't feel as good, which generates lots of anxiety. So even though notifications can be exciting, you can end up getting addicted to them to the point where when they suddenly don't come through, you start to feel anxious and start to wonder if you've said something wrong."

When we look back at the history of notifications, they’ve often been the call to battle and a call to action. That means that neurologically, we were stimulated by notifications either to go forward into battle or to go back to flee. Smartphones have been built and designed with human psychological hooks and behaviors in mind.

This makes sense. It made me realize that one of the main reasons why I felt that notifications were making me nervous was my need to always be in the know.

A sense of peace and control

"Turning off my notifications has given me a sense of peace."

Turning off all notifications was definitely not easy but I must say it has been rewarding and I feel in control now. By the way, I turned off notification for almost every app on my phone. I check as and when I want and that's how come I can go a whole day without opening some apps. At first I turned it off because, I felt no one really cared to engage with my status on WhatsApp, my posts on Instagram or even send a message but now I don't really care anymore; I respond as and when I see any engagement or message if there's any at all.

I'm enjoying the peace that comes with and the power I have now to control what I do with my phone and not the other around. Turning off my notifications has given me a sense of peace. I don't feel obliged to talk to people all the time. It’s allowed me to create boundaries for myself and to put myself first. Where previously I would respond quickly and uncritically to a message as soon as I had seen it, I now make a conscious effort to ask myself if I'm ready to engage in that discussion. This applies to Twitter and Instagram as much as it does to my friends and, honestly, it’s a game-changer.

The key takeaway

If you're at that point where every single notification on every app is up, it's really time to turn them off. Smartphones and technology form part of our everyday lives. So the real big kind of takeaway is firstly, just look at making your notifications as minimal as possible. Look at what you use, why you use it and how beneficial it is. The truth is, technology is created by humans. We are the masters of technology. And by taking a step back to understand why we use things, we can certainly make technology work for us. So we don't need to jump into every notification anymore.

I would be glad to know about your thoughts and experiences with notifications. Do share.