It all starts innocently enough. After you download the app, it asks you permission to send push notifications. Yes, it is possible. It could be a good idea. I’d like to know when my package arrives or my burrito is ready. Then you can download Continue readingYou need to give permission for apps to send you notifications. Before long, your lock screen is overflowing with notifications from apps that want your attention.
They never sleep. They’re hungry for engagement. They want you to know that your favorite items are on sale, that you haven’t practiced your Spanish today, that your delivery driver is five stops away, that your child at daycare just had a blowout – all day, all at once. We all call this Notification Hell.
We haven’t always lived here. For a while, companies like Apple wouldn’t let app developers run all willy nilly with the power to request our attention at any moment of the day. They insisted that this power should not be used for evil, but for good. That didn’t last long. App developers are now permitted to send us marketing notifications as long as we’ve opted into them. And guess what: if you’ve opted to have any notifications at all, you’ve opted into a lot of them. The call is even coming from inside the house now – Apple is promoting its services in settings menus and Samsung is trying to sell you a new phone… while you’re using your Samsung phone. There’s no hiding place.
It’s not just ads that are the problem. Our phones’ digital assistants are trying hard to learn our behavior and predict our every move. Probably because they’re robots, they don’t really understand what’s helpful and what’s not. Siri can see that I have a flight scheduled on my calendar so it will suggest a shortcut to set my phone in airplane mode. It asks me if I would like to dial into my meeting: my flight, immediately after that. Digital assistants with good intentions are the best way to get to Notification Hell.
It’s not an assistant, but Google Photos frequently commits notification crimes. It’s always learning new tricks, like how to identify a beer or a latte in a photo, and then pestering you to look at how it can identify all the photos you took of beer and lattes. It wants me to know that it will find a number of similar photos of my cat sleeping on various pieces of furniture and bring them to my attention, just like a dog who finds a stick. These photos were taken by me, my brother in Christ. I know they’re similar.
Our operating system developers aren’t totally indifferent to our suffering; they cast us a couple of lifelines. iOS allows you to have non-time sensitive notifications that are collected in a daily digest, and sent once per day. You can also set up focus modes – the UI for which is its own kind of hell – or have some apps deliver notifications quietly unless they’re time-sensitive. You must solve a puzzle before you can do that.
Amazon was the first to try this. I thought I’d configured it so that I’d only get notifications when a package arrives. This was apparently a mistake, as a grocery order that I placed five hours ago sat outside my home for five hours on the Fourth of July. Amazon now sends me as many notifications it wishes.
Our situation is summarized as follows: we are in notification hell, there is no escape. Although we have some limited tools, it is up to us to figure out how to get out. Until I figure out my notification settings, I know I’m here for the long haul. For now, it’s just a comfort to know that there are others with me too, because misery loves company.
Source: The Verge