Blog Post

We are all living inside the notification hell

Emails, tweets, notifications, text and instant messages, Facebook status updates, Path moments — all these are new tools of communication when taken together are notification hell. These notifications prey on human desire for a dopamine fix. And just as we are over-caffeinated, I think the 21st century is quickly making us over-notified. (I think this is my second new phrase of the week – the first one being aspirational escape velocity)

The worst part is that there is nothing we can do about it. Apparently Tweeting and checking emails is much harder addiction to give up that cigarettes or alcohol, according to a study by Chicago University’s Booth Business School. No surprise since they are all about attention gone awry. The dopamine fix, I guess is worse than nicotine. Especially since it is free – while a fine bottle of scotch can cost a pretty penny.

What all this multitasking is doing to our brain is hard to imagine. This video by Chris Crutchfield does a good job of being a mirror to our over-notified selves.

[vimeo w=604&h=302]

14 Responses to “We are all living inside the notification hell”

  1. morris opety

    I prety much agree,,i tink our local network,in png which is digicel is making alot of money out of these sesocial services site…wantn to chek up ur facebook status or just tweet requires credt….in png,,mobiles are now used for browsing da internet islnstead of its original use….

  2. Navendu Sharma

    I completely agree to content of this post. We become unknowingly addicted to check emails, tweets, facebook, phone messages regularly or too frequently. The only solution is to do self regulation.

  3. muropa tg

    that coulb be true in a way. we tend to get anxious about being notified but the worst bit is wasting time checking your email for nothing. but i guess if you have principles and your priorities are straight then there is no need to be in that ‘hell’.

  4. Abbas Haider Ali

    Ah, over-notification, my old friend. Signing up for just about every social service I encounter means that I deal with all the time.

    I also see it professionally since the company I work for focuses on solving this very problem for specific uses in the Enterprise marketplace – for IT departments, emergency managers, and crisis communications.

    Abbas Haider Ali.

    • You’ve somewhat missed the point. “Leaving a message” adds another notification! The point is that while sitting in front of a PC, you could be receiving SMSs on the phone on your desk, alerts about web games on your iPad, incoming email alerts on your PC (and iPad and iPhone), instant messages from skype/yahoo/aol/icq/GTalk, news bulletins from apps like “CNN” for iOS, calendar alerts about appointments or meetings, task reminders from Outlook/Things/Toodledo, Facebook notifications about posts mentioning you or tagging you, app updates, etc all vying for a moment of your time.
      And you want to add “New voicemail” to that nightmare!

  5. Brian S Hall

    Om, I have been writing about a related issue on my site for some time now and it’s one I think remains overlooked:
    was Steve Jobs’ last UI efforts geared toward solving this “dopamine” addiction?
    Unlike Windows Phone, for example, which offers a constant stream of real-time notifications and updates, Apple was hesitant to do anything similar. Even now, iPhone — the original app phone — attempts to force us to focus on one application, one task at a time.
    Again, look at the upcoming Windows (PC) UI: a stream of real-time information and a design that encourages multitasking. Whereas Mac OS Lion encourages applications to occupy the entire window and remove everything else.
    I don’t hear folks talking about this but it seems to me a very distinct break in UI vision.

  6. physical

    Notification addiction is not as big of an issue as described. The only reason why people are highly likely to cave into getting their “notification fix” is because the “cost” of doing so is minimal.
    There is little to no negative consequences of checking your email (except in certain social situations where it is considered a faux pas). The time and effort spent in doing so is also perceived as minimal.
    It is easy to ditch your social media addiction. There is just very little compelling reason to do so, thus it is perceived as “hard”. If the constant barrage of notifications bother you, then stop looking at them. Delete your accounts. The social media world will pass you by, but they never had much interesting to say in the first place.