Two things got me thinking in recent times.
Firstly someone asked me about my Apple Watch and what I actually do with it. To be honest at the start, like many Watch users, it annoyed me into exercising.
A month later this had worn off, the weight was back on, and I’m pondering pawning the watch to pay for the bike I impulse-bought along the way (which will probably have more shelf life).
So clearly continuous notification is something I’ve got wise to and indeed something that’s really started to bug me. Watch is basically an extension of things that were already happening on your phone and in your life, with a few bells and whistles added in.
Which brings me to the second thing, my esteemed former colleague Evodie Fleury’s well-argued article on escaping the constant distractions offered by being permanently connected.
For many people these distractions are now habits — possibly even addictions for a minority — and Evodie is right to try and see what life would be like without them.
Me? It’s like living in a childhood dream world. Being connected to people and things, day and night, is something I’ve yearned for since arguing that CB Radio wasn’t just for lorry drivers and ‘hams’ and playing around with walkie-talkies.
It’s true that we all need breaks from being connected — but I’d argue that we’re going to be connected anyway, and it’s more about managing how often it bothers us. If we can tame that, the curiosity and temptation to keep checking will disappear over time. It’s possible to shackle our digital world rather than becoming a magnet to it.
I’m arguing in a presentation later this week that the expansion of technology is all about ‘mobile moments’, as argued in a nice book, The Mobile Mind Shift — the convergence of peoples’ needs with the curated provision of them. People shouldn’t need to check messaging apps all day if a favoured contact gets in touch.
Platforms need to learn when we’re busy and when to be buzzed with a message formatted to suit that context. In time, ‘personal assistants’ should learn whether it’s important enough to interrupt your daily life — if it’s truly critical and my devices know I’m in the living room, why not send it to the TV first?
But also in technology, most new problems are simply old ones re-hashed. The biggest annoyance for me with wearables is how they buzz me with meaningless promotional emails. I could turn off all email notifications, but would miss out on the rare thing of genuine interest.
The answer? Like all walks of life — embrace and deal with the past, whilst looking to the future. Just as we added spam filters and anti-virus checks on email years ago, today’s problem is stuff I probably opted into without thinking, but stored up annoyance for later.
It’s a quicker manual task then you’d think (and the terrible barriers some companies put in your way, are something I’ll return to in a future article). If it scares you — use services like unroll.me or justdelete.me to speed it up. I make no comment on what they do with your unsubscription data.
Or go the other way — set up a VIP list of things you want to see, and stop notifications for all the others. Turning off WhatsApp notifications was one of the best things I ever did. Train your tech to do what you need it to.
Image credit: “Wearable Technology” by Keoni Cabral via Flickr
10 minutes of tab-shuffling and my watch is bearable again. The battery lasts longer and I know that when it buzzes, it’s something genuinely important like my Domino’s Pizza going into the oven.
It seems like a strange reaction to tame your digital life by adopting even more technology, but pause to think about it and with some persistence, you’ll get used to having spare time… for reading more articles like this.
Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com on August 31, 2015. Minor edits made for the benefit of context.