Saturday, November 18, 2017

I'm not ignoring just you. I'm ignoring everyone!

I think I hit peak social media at about the middle of this last week. I had been doing well with my NOtification policy but kept missing stuff and felt like I had freed up more time than I really needed  so, like a forgetful fool suffering from a serious case of FOMO, I turned most everything back on at the start of the week and by Wednesday notifications were lighting up the screen like crazy and I was once again finding myself constantly distracted by bleeps and bloops.

As of yesterday, I went back to my previous settings, turning all of the notification sounds off except for my work emails (which I am paid to read), my iMessages (which is the main way my children pester me about things). I turned off lock screen pop ups from all social media apps on my phone since it sits on my desk while I work and just having the pop up catch my eye was a distraction. I left them on my iPad since I only look at it when I want to. These changes give me control over my notifications (again).

The only way I know I have a social media notification on my phone is to unlock it and look at the badge app icon. On my iPad, I have to open the cover and see the lock screen. Nothing buzzes. Nothing beeps. Nothing bloops. I work or read or sit staring at the wall oblivious of everything happening in the world unless I choose to look.

Of course, I instantly started missing things and fell behind on Twitter conversations (which sort of stinks because I don't want to exclude myself from having the chance to communicate with my far-flung friends) and missed news events (which is actually a blessing).

I've discovered that I can't have it both ways. Social media is either ON or OFF. Even with the limited notifications I get (For example, I have never been notified of every like on a Tweet or Facebook post), I still get a lot of notifications if I leave it all on. If I turn it off, I can somehow feel the pile piling up. Yesterday I looked at my iPad at lunch and the lock screen had at least 30 missed messages between just Twitter and Slack. It felt overwhelming but it's better than having my concentration broken thirty separate times when I am trying to work or not trying to think, both actions that I had forgotten are of equal importance.

I toyed with this Thursday, reducing my frustration a tad over Wednesday and went full in yesterday, starting this day of change ironically by posting a tweet explaining my intentions:
That graphic goes with this great post by Austin Kleon, explaining each step a bit further:
  • Log off (get out now)
  • Mute all (turn off notifications)
  • Carry on (without hope and without despair)
By yesterday afternoon, I could feel my time freeing up again. I was very productive at work and I again had a decision to make. I could enable a couple of notifications and stay caught up with the onlines or I could try to think of what I used to do with free time before I had social media and an endless internet to waste occupy my time.

The choice was clear. I opened a book and read for a bit. Then I started charging some batteries and pulled out my old Eton E5 shortwave radio. Instead of aimlessly surfing the internet all evening (I did a bit, I have to admit), I tuned up and down the bands and marveled at the distant voices coming through the static. It's been a long time since I did that.

I think NOtifications is going to stay for good this time, especially during my work days. I'm even adding this line to my Twitter profile: NOtifications off 7AM-5PM CST, M-F.

It's not me. It's not you. It's everyone!

So, if you tweet me or send me a Slack message or tag me in an Ello post, don't be discouraged if I don't get right back to you. I'm probably busy being busy or busy not being busy. Both are equally important, both actions that I also had forgotten are of equal importance.

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