Notification : a solution become a problem
Notification addiction : between a sense of self and the Fear of Missing Out
You’ll respond that notification can be parameterized. Right. Yet nearly nobody does it. There are three ways to explain that.
The first is that it is, rightly or wrongly, a power user habit. The average user installs lots of apps and suffers from notifications. Only the most advanced ones take the time to specify what they want to receive, from what (app) and even from whom (people).
The second is known as FOFM or “Fear Of Missing Out”: the fear of missing something. It’s a major cause of information overload. While most of the consumer or enterprise applications we use allow us to decide what we want to receive vs. what we’ll have to search for if needed, the fear of missing something makes people follow everything. As the quantity of tools, media, channels and the volume of information is exponentially increasing, humans can’t keep up. That’s even more true at work where employees fear so much to be blamed because they miss something than they follow everything without reason.
Notification : aggression or recognition ?
The third is that notifications give a sense of oneself. It makes people feel they exist. I’ve read/hear that receiving notifications makes us generate dopamine, a neurotransmitter related to motivation and recognition. From a personal standpoint I consider that at some some point notifications looks like aggressions to me but science says the opposite.
And don’t count on vendors to make notification management easy or to make use aware of their impact. An application which notifications are turned off won’t be not top of mind anymore, will be forgotten, not used anymore because our attention will be caught by the others. But if in our personal lives it’s a matter of self-responsibility, I think that in a enterprise context employers should make their employees aware of the consequences of a poor notification management as they do for emails. That’ even something they should care about when designing/implementing enterprise applications, digital workplaces etc… It’s a good case for employee experience.
In short if it’s humanly possible to fight against notification overlook most of us are doing nothing and are torturing themselves with their own consent. This torture comes with a price in terms of stress, attention and productivity.