Alert Fatigue? One Simple Solution So You Won’t Be a Slave to Technology
Founder & Editor-in-Chief
If you get these alerts all day long, chances are you may be suffering from alert fatigue.
There’s one simple solution to alert fatigue that will have you feeling better immediately — and help you sleep better at night.
Before we get to the solution, it helps to understand why alert fatigue exists in the first place.
Developers of technology — whether its Facebook, a game, email, or whatever — don’t much care about your needs as an end-user. They primarily care that you use their app or website as much and as often as possible. So most apps will set any notification alerts that can to be “on” by default.
Yes, that means you will usually have to turn these defaults off in order to turn off notifications. And you should do this as your default — do not allow new apps to send you notifications. Unless it’s an app that’s monitoring someone’s life-signs and you’re a doctor, 99 percent of apps do not need to be sending you these alerts to your homescreen or desktop.
Once you understand an app’s purpose with notifications isn’t to be helpful, but instead to get you to engage with the app (so they can sell more advertising or boast about their active user numbers), you take back control and the power of notifications.
Regaining that power is important, because technology is dictating how you interact with it, rather than the other way around — you dictating how you want to interact with it. You’re not a slave to your technology, because technology is simply a tool. When you feel at the mercy of electrons, it’s time to rethink and approach technology from a blank-slate perspective.
And so the solution becomes obvious — turn off all notifications.
This allows you to reset your relationship with your technology. You shouldn’t be checking your phone or computer every time it beeps — that is a horrible interaction design. No engineer would have ever designed such an interactive relationship if they looked at if from a holistic, psychological perspective.
Alerts interrupt our concentration and workflow, and the vast majority of the time, they are doing so for little purpose or improvement of our lives.
To keep your daily concentration and workflow intact, then, you need to interact with technology on the level you want to and that works best for you. For most people, that means interacting with it in a batch process, rather than on a real-time basis.
Instead of alerts constantly alerting you to useless new information and emails, you simply check in with the apps and websites that are important to you a few times a day.
Emails, for example, are best relegated to certain times of the day, such as once in the morning, once around lunchtime, and once in the afternoon or evening. Tell your co-workers so they can reset their expectations too about your new schedule. If they need something that demands immediate attention, let them know they can always call you — that will set the bar high enough that few people will bother you unless it truly is an emergency.
Facebook? Why would you need to log into it more than once or twice a day? Before Facebook, you hadn’t talked or seen your high-school friends for years. So why would you need to know what’s going on in their lives more than once a day?
Other apps? Again, unless it’s something that is critical to improving your happiness in life (or productivity at work), what’s the point in having it notify you that something’s changed in the app? Keep only what you absolutely need to alert you, such as phone calls (duh!) and text messages sent directly to you.
Alert fatigue is within your control and your hands — all you need do is to choose to take control of it. You’ll probably find your life is more enjoyable if you turn all — or at least most — of those alerts off.
John M. Grohol, Psy.D.
Dr. John Grohol is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Psych Central. He is a psychologist, author, researcher, and expert in mental health online, and has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 1995. Dr. Grohol has a Master's degree and doctorate in clinical psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Grohol sits on the editorial board of the journal Computers in Human Behavior and is a founding board member of the Society for Participatory Medicine. You can learn more about Dr. John Grohol here.
Grohol, J. (2018). Alert Fatigue? One Simple Solution So You Won’t Be a Slave to Technology. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 29, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/alert-fatigue-one-simple-solution-so-you-wont-be-a-slave-to-technology/