I have 997 unread emails. 188 texts to open. 2 Instagram direct messages about the latest viral food video. And I’m feeling overwhelmed.
As the winter semester grinds to a start, I’ve realized that a malicious byproduct of virtual learning has emerged: notifications. Endless Facebook postings about club recruitment, classmates blurting their existential crisis in the 200+ person GroupMe, or automated Piazza Activity Digest emails –– I’m over it. And as a new semester welcomes an opportunity to start fresh, I’m coming in with a new perspective: Notifications are ruining my life.
Notifications are skewing my self worth. I used to watch my Instagram like a hawk after posting a self-indulgent picture, dragging my finger down the screen to refresh the like count, and believing so intently that off-red digital hearts could quantify my popularity or impact my personal happiness. There was something terrifyingly instant about the way a two-sentence update could make me feel like a sudden sensation or an invisible nobody, and with each glance at my phone I felt an increasing sense of anxiety to keep momentum with an ever-moving online atmosphere.
Notifications are cluttering my digital and mental clarity. Even before the fall semester had begun, my newly created university email inbox was inundated with a never-ending avalanche of notifications. “Join our Physical Activity Study,” “Alumni Association Welcomes You” and “MPrint Maintenance Tomorrow” were amongst the endless stream of messages that occupied my digital space, and the sheer volume of niche information often overshadowed a rare important update from a professor or recruiting opportunity. Checking my email became an unappealing chore, as my mental disorganization simultaneously worsened with each increase in unread messages.
Notifications are overwhelming my daily schedule. I nervously refresh application portals or my email inbox for hours, burning precious time while awaiting news of a club acceptance or internship application decision. Hours have genuinely been wasted this way, as any thoughts of other priorities or personal nourishment are pushed aside in favor of capturing the exact moment an update rolls onto the screen. I depend on notifications for validation, let them control my moods and watch helplessly as my personal connections dwindle until all I am left with is my own anxiety –– and that has to stop.
Notifications are ruining my life, so this semester I’m turning them off. The emails, the texts, and yes –– even the Bachelor Twitter updates. I’ve been prioritizing connecting to the wrong network for too long, losing focus on my mental health and the simple benefits of human communication. Now I check my phone when I want to. If something is urgent, people will call. Suddenly the tense feeling in my shoulders has eased, and I experience a rare moment of control.
I don’t know how many emails I have. And the air is oddly quiet in the absence of a text vibration. Refreshingly, each step is fueled by a calmness and conviction to resist any urge to glance at my phone — I’ll check my Instagram direct messages later, after this walk.
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