Out of sight, out of mind

The insignificance of the notification


Collegian File Photo

By Max Schwartz, Collegian Columnist

Sometimes it’s the best buzz you’ve gotten, and other times it’s the worst; it can change your mood to happy from sad and vice versa. The buzz I’m referring to is the one in your pocket, the little vibration that lingers until you unlock your phone. Without even looking at your screen you know that something just happened: breaking news, a Snapchat from your friend or a post on Instagram. Aren’t you tired of the pointless notifications?

Just turn them off!

Ever since the inception of the smart phone, people everywhere are glued to their phone screens while they’re walking to class, on the toilet or in bed. But if we put down our phones surely we’d forget about them for a bit — out of sight, out of mind, right? Not exactly. Notifications serve as reminders, albeit some more important than others, to let us know what we’re missing; written displays of “FOMO” and notifications about breaking news we can’t do anything about. Honestly, what am I supposed to do with the knowledge that so-and-so posted a photo from her trip to Santorini?

Since when did the purchase of a smart phone equate to the time commitment of a newborn? Picking up your phone to see who texted you and what app needs attending is like tending to a baby, and the notifications are cries for attention. If someone or something needs to reach you, they will. You’ll receive a phone call or maybe, just maybe, you’ll interact with an actual human.

What bothers me most about notifications is their way of stripping significance from an event, whether it be positive or negative. It’s always nice to get a text from that one person, an alert that your favorite artist dropped merch or a FaceTime from a friend. Likewise, there are also notifications that let us know when there’s been a terrorist attack, or a celebrity passed away. A text doesn’t emit real emotion and an alert cannot express true panic; they just give a small taste. There’s nothing that can really be done in response to these notifications to express your true feelings either. We must live with this information yet remain completely powerless in changing the outcome.

Now I’m not saying you must go cold turkey and turn off all notifications, but you could take small steps towards reducing how often you check your phone. Some people disable push notifications, which are the messages that appear on your lock screen. Instead there might be a badge in the upper right-hand corner or an in-app alert. This keeps you from picking up your phone yet ensures you don’t miss something important. Often people use a popular studying tactic where you set alarms every hour or so to check your phone for ten minutes. Once the time is up it’s back to whatever you’re supposed to be doing. For those who want to go cold turkey without just turning notifications off, a special setting called airplane mode exists. Just like it sounds, airplane mode is made for flying, but people will use it because it conserves battery through disabling the use of cellular data. Along with the conservation of battery-life, airplane mode cuts all notifications and thus leaves you to your own devices.

Notifications are meant to be turned off. Frankly there’s no good reason to have them on unless you want to be reminded by news you can’t change and pictures of places you can’t be. Instead I encourage you to live in the moment and opt for a day with a little less screen time. Go for a walk outside, catch up with friends over coffee, read a book that engages your mind, body and soul. Put the phone down for a bit and live a little more; because notifications can be important, but living in the moment is essential.

Max Schwartz is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected].