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17 Ways My Life Has Changed Since I Turned Off All Notifications On My Phone

This is a public service announcement.

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Hello! My name is Rega, it's nice to meet you. About six months ago, I turned off all push notifications on my phone. Like, all. My phone now lights up exclusively when I get a call.

I got rid of notifications for a variety of reasons, most centrally that I was feeling pretty high stress levels, and would feel them spike when my phone lit up. I suspected this could help.

Now, I'm not gonna tell you how to live your life, but I will tell you about a few things that've changed about mine since.

1. I'll be honest: initially, I was checking my phone WAY more often than I did with notifications on.

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For my first couple of weeks after turning off notifications, I constantly unlocked my phone to see what was going on, assuming that I was being FLOODED by correspondence and just not seeing it. Eventually, after unlocking to a blank phone enough times, conditioning kicked in.

Now, a few months on, the total number of times I check my phone in a day is lower than when I had notifications on.

2. My phone use switched from being reactive to being deliberate.

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Think about how you use everything you own – you turn on your TV when you wanna watch TV, you power up your laptop when you feel like using your laptop, you open your fridge when you... You get it. The one exception was my phone, which I used when a notification popped up, rather than when I wanted to use my phone. That's weird, right?

Now, I check texts when I feel chatty and I check Snapchat when I have time to kill and so on and so forth, instead of being drawn in through the day. Which means...

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3. I stopped being app companies' dream consumer. Sorry y'all.

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For obvious reasons, every company wants consumers to be addicted to their product. Like, Pepsi wants you to crave a Pepsi with every meal so that Pepsi can make a lot of money off you. But you're smart! You're informed! You know that shit's bad for you! So you don't have a Pepsi with every meal, you have one once in a while, when you really want to. Notifications are the equivalent of a Pepsi popping up and saying "DRINK MEEEEE!" every time you sit down for a meal. If that happened, I'd likely give in every time.

Anxious sucker that I am, I was being sucked in left, right, and centre, all through the day every damn day, even when it was to my detriment (I'll get to this in a bit).

4. I am sad less often.

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Getting to that detriment thingy ^ – apps affect us emotionally and that's important to stay aware of. For example, on days I'm feeling insecure about my social life, Snapchat gives me a deep rattling FOMO. On days I'm feeling mildly unattractive, Instagram would heighten that to full-on insecurity.

Despite that, I would speed right into each emotion each day, because a notification had pulled me in.

Now, I open apps based on what I'm in the mood for, rather than opening every app every day and feeling worse for it. I go entire days without opening certain apps (including some days when I don't open my texts or WhatsApps) and have lost nothing.

5. I realised almost nothing is actually urgent and when things are urgent, people call.

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If you're a much stronger and calmer person than me, you can probably see a text pop-up without feeling an urge to reply ASAP. But I am not strong and I am far from calm. I was letting my priorities and to-do lists be constantly disrupted by a self-imposed pressure to respond to incoming communication quickly.

Now, with notifications off, I open messaging apps when I'm not in the middle of doing other things and reply to whatever's waiting. So far, nobody has noticed I'm any slower, and I haven't missed out on any plans or conversations.

6. My stress levels are way, way, way lower than they used to be.

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When I couldn't get to them immediately, comments and tweets and texts would give me a fair amount of anxiety. The knowledge of correspondences waiting for my attention would settle as stress in my gut. No more!

(Again, if you're generally chill AF and unaffected, then carry right on, ya monk.)

7. I learned which apps I really, truly love.

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Notifications were equalising my use of all my apps, and in fact skewing them toward the ones that've nailed the notification game. Having to actively open them when I felt like made me realise that I feel like using Twitter a lot! Who knew?

You may find you've been neglecting an experience you enjoy, in favour of others that are good at getting your attention.

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8. And some apps I've stopped using almost entirely.

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Turns out, left un-influenced by notifications, I don't often feel like scrolling through pretty photos or posting too many myself. So my Instagram use has drastically reduced since I turned off notifications. (It picks back up when I'm on vacay, though, which feels obvious.)

This may be different for you – maybe you'll discover you really don't care about jokes and opinions and will give up Twitter. Or maybe you'll find face-filters and realtime party photos mundane, and you'll pull back on Snapchat. Or maybe nothing will change at all, but at the very least you'll have more awareness and agency over which experiences you're choosing to give your time to.

9. This is a no-brainer: I get a lot more work done.

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I haven't been suddenly transformed to a zen-master focus champion or anything, but at least now my distractions are at my own hand. I totally still find a billion ways to put off work (including checking my phone), but my cumulative distraction time has about halved.

10. I realised I am less addicted to my phone than I used to believe.

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I used to shamefully proclaim myself a smartphone addict and felt like one too. But I totally wasn't and am not. I was just using my phone every time it asked to be used, which is a LOT more than I naturally feel like using it.

11. I finish more of the articles I start reading.

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I realised after turning them off that notifications were not only disrupting my IRL life, they were also disrupting me while using my phone. I do most of my reading on my phone – as do most people (I have the data!) – and text pop-ups or incoming Snapchats would often pull me away mid-article, ensuring that I never came back to finish it.

12. I sleep better.

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How many times have you decided to go to sleep, but popped your eyes back open because your phone ping'd or vibrated or just lit up? BYE.

And how many times have you woken up in the middle of the night to pee or drink water, glanced at your phone for the time, and then ended up staying up a whole half hour because you saw a text or comment and got sucked in? NEVER AGAIN.

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13. And I wake up better, too.

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I can't resist picking up my phone as soon as my eyes open every morning. This is in part because my alarm is on my phone, duh.

Once I do look at my phone, seeing a home-screen full of random messages and angry tweets first thing in the morning isn't the ideal start to the day. Now I'm able to enjoy at least a few minutes of morning peace before consciously deciding I'm ready to enter the world of correspondence, and unlocking my phone.

It's a teeny change, but actually makes a massive difference to the rest of my day.

14. I'm better at hanging out with people.

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Friends used to give me crap for constantly checking my phone when I was with them. With notifications off, I realise that I actually sometimes, with no effort on my part, can go up to an hour (sometimes longer!) without checking it at all. So, again, I wasn't addicted to my phone! I was just being pulled into it!

15. I've learned that phone-makers have quite a way to go in terms of allowing us to customise our phone experiences.

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Attention, all Apple and Samsung and Google execs who read BuzzFeed: it would be SO dope to be able to customise notifications by contacts. I don't want everyone's (or almost anyone's) texts to pop up on my screen, but I do want to know when my ma or pa text me.

I also don't want to have to pick each app individually in my settings to alter its notifications. I want easy toggles that allow me to choose my spot on the spectrum between "interrupt me a LOT, phone" and "leave me the fuck alone, phone".

I honestly wish I could even block incoming calls from lighting up my screen, but allow them for certain contacts. Getting extreme, I know, but I'd like these options!

16. It hasn't miraculously made me a responsible person or anything.

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I still stay up way too late scrolling down random timelines sometimes. And I totally still occasionally spend hours frantically going Facebook-Twitter-Instagram-Snapchat-Facebook-Twitter-Instagram-Snapchat for no reason. And I totally still get distracted by WhatsApp when I should be working. It happens.

It just happens less.

I'm far from the first person in the world to have done this, or even to have written about it. There was this great piece in Wired last month by someone who turned off most notifications, though not all, and still found it to be super-duper beneficial. Maybe that's the way you'll go, if you want to choose a less extreme phone relationship than I have.

My central advice isn't "turn off all your notifications" as much as: think about how you're using your phone, and whose terms it's on.

Rega Jha is the Editor-in-Chief of BuzzFeed India and is based in Mumbai.

Contact Rega Jha at rega.jha@buzzfeed.com.

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