I’ve turned off almost all notifications on my iPhone. No email sound or vibration, no Twitter popups, nothing from Facebook — even if it worked, nothing from Ping — if anyone used it, no Game Center trumpets, no nothing. Almost. I do leave on SMS and Phone (because I need working telephony), and Calendar and Alarm still get to alert me (because I need to stay employed). That’s it.
But it used to be the opposite.
When MobileMe and ActiveSync first came to iOS 2 (then iPhone OS 2.0) I put those suckers on full blast. They could beep and buzz every few seconds as far as I was concerned. When Apple finally launched Push Notifications and Boxcar created one of the first Twitter alert systems, I couldn’t wait to see all the mentions and DMs pop up. Likewise with Beejive when they added Push. Eventually I had a full complement of task managers, social networks, IM clients, reminders, texts, mail, and I can’t even remember what else going off seemingly all the time. (Yes, that included in my pocket when I was trying to have conversations, and it did produce all manner of strange looks, especially from people far more sane than I.)
Since iOS still lacks mode settings (i.e. home vs. work, day vs. night) and it was far too cumbersome to manually turn off notifications at night, I’d suffer through them in my sleep as well. I’d just flip the ringer switch to silent and leave my iPhone rattling on my side table all night. (Yeah, I was single at the time — thanks!) I wondered if it reduced my sleep efficiency but hey, it was cool tech.
Then something started to happen. I started to ignore them. Turns out being notified all the time is the same as being notified never. If everything is important, nothing is. Then it changed again and rather than notification it became distraction. Focus is often key to execution and having something whizz and whine at random yet frequent intervals throughout the day started shredding my focus and harming my ability to execute. (Especially push spam — nothing like reaching for the phone and seeing a bunch of junk emails and bogus @mentions to really drive home the value of notifications.)
It reminded me of that episode of the X-Files where all the devils are congregating to swap stories about how they were driving humans to insanity and, after several of them had gone, the last one admitted he didn’t do much of anything — humans were all too willing to drive themselves crazy. The devil’s example was the snooze button on the alarm clock — a device fiendishly designed to destroy our only naturally peaceful state… and then repeat that destruction over and over again in 5-10 minute intervals. Our own implementations of technology were enough to make anyone jump out a window.
Eventually a few friends told me to cut out the annoying racket and I did. I turned it all off. Well, almost all of it as I described above. Now my iPhone sits peacefully and quietly 95% of the time. (And if Apple provided some sort of night time mode, where meeting invitations from Europe wouldn’t fire up at 4am it would be 98% of the time.)
I check email whenever I want to check email anyway. I check Twitter whenever I want to check Twitter. I check Facebook whenever… I really, really have to. I don’t need people to challenge me to games I’m not playing or alert me to music I’m not listening to. I’m fine.
Anyone else just said no to notifications? Anyone thinking about it? Let me know. I’m interested how you’re using push and how, if at all, it keeps you informed or just keeps you interrupted.