You feel a slight vibration in your pocket. You hear a tiny ping. A little pop-up emerges on your screen… all of these tantalizing you to stop what you are doing, and check out the notification one of your devices has sent you. Is it a message? An email? A like? A comment? Something urgent? Something warm and friendly that you want to know about now? Or is it something that will ruin your day?
It’s the age of being constantly contactable – and how constantly contactable are you?
I was a child when mobile phones were released – but I was young enough to remember a time when the need to be constantly contactable simply didn’t exist. If you were in the car, you couldn’t be called. If you were in a movie, you weren’t able to be disrupted. And on weekends, there were no pesky emails for you to check to make you feel like you were still connected to your work.
And there was something to be said for this time – a freedom in accepting that when we were off, we were off. We were more present in each and every moment. When we were on an outing – there was nothing distracting us. Our weekends were weekends. Eating at the dinner table with our children was not accompanied by a need to endlessly scroll Instagram to ensure we hadn’t missed an important post that day.
There was rarely something so urgent that we were angry at ourselves for not being able to be contacted – we accepted it as a part of life.
I propose that many of us nowadays are slaves to our devices – that we cut off crucial conversations to check the content of that tiny ping. We do not allow ourselves the time to really relax in the fear that we might miss out on some crucial piece of information… a sale by your favourite brand? A tweet by some crucial influencer? The new release of an even better device than the one constantly in your hand?
But who hasn’t also experienced that moment of dread at that tiny ping as well. That instant resentment of an intrusion that we are in fact – completely in control of.
And while there are many studies that show that the distractions of these notifications have minimal impact on productivity (after all, who doesn’t want to appear in the know and on top of things all the time?) the real cost is our relationships and our mental health.
Although we all have moments where we receive a notification that makes our day or gives us valuable information we are grateful to have – I challenge you to monitor your reactions to notifications over the next few days: specifically, how they make you feel, and what they take you away from.
If you find cause for concern in terms of either of these things – maybe it is time to take control of our devices. You don’t have to give up your phone entirely – there are few of us who could afford to do that nowadays. Be conscious of your attention – and choose when to give it to notifications.
You could also:
If this is you – let us know how you go and how this made you feel!
Photo by Torsten Detlaff