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    By this point, you might be thinking that the obvious solution is to just disable push notifications entirely.

    After a few days, I realized that my brain had become so accustomed to my phone telling me what I needed to attend to, that I felt lost when I didn’t have those cues.

    How long did you try this for? I’ve completely disabled push notifications on my computer for a few months, and I think over time I’ve ended up compulsively opening email/slack/etc. less. What was important was not just removing the notifications, but other visual cues (for example, having my dock always visible on macOS, which would display little red icons). On the other hand, I think I would have little success if I tried to do this on my phone, so I don’t. I view my phone as less of a working tool anyways, so I’m okay with this. Most importantly, when I’m trying to focus I can reasonably restrict my access to my phone, but less so with my computer.

    I’ve personally struggled more with the idea that Something Very Important could have happened since I last checked in. The set of things that trigger this are much smaller, but they exist enough to be a problem at least every few days. For example, when I’m anticipating a results of an exam that I don’t think went particularly well, I tend to open email and check every time my mind drifts. I don’t think consuming content purely in digest form would fix this. Perhaps aggressive filtering would work, but I haven’t tried this and am generally suspicious of “productivity/mindfulness solutions” that require lots of active effort.

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      I only tried it for about five days. Perhaps a longer experiment is in order. I’ve also done a lot of visual decluttering on my computer, e.g. removing my bar, notifications, etc.

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        I can attest that both a minimal computing environment and disabling notifications have helped me transition out of a time when I was feeling similar to how you’ve described.

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          This is really reassuring to hear, thank you :)

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      Considering harmful considered harmful.

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          Yes lol this was 100% tongue-in-cheek

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          I found that it caused me to check my phone/inbox/Slack more, not less.

          This behavior is called extinction burst.

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            TL;DR: Get off my lawn, punk.

            In terms of the history of technology, my childhood was marked by … complete and total tech-illiteracy on the part of the previous generation

            Seriously? That’s a rather broad generalization, and as a techie staring down his fortieth birthday I can’t help but resent it just a little. I remember seeing push notifications touted as a “new feature” on the first iPhone and remembering how much push technology sucked back in the mid-1990s.

            The whole reason we came up with pull technologies for Web news and blogs like RSS and Atom was because Microsoft tried shit like Channel Definition Format during the First Browser War (IE vs Netscape), it sucked big floppy donkey dicks, and we didn’t want a bunch of shit-faced corporate cockmasters turning the Web into the Second Coming of Cable TV.

            Apple wasn’t doing anything that [PointCast](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PointCast_(dotcom\)) hadn’t already tried, but everybody thought push was revolutionary in part because tech journalists make my cats look like Nobel laureates and partly because of Steve Jobs’ reality distortion field.

            It’s the idea that app developers have the ability to grab my attention as they wish, which of course we enthusiastically welcomed into our lives as one of the chief innovations of the iPhone age.

            Speak for yourself. I only bother with smartphones for my convenience. Everybody else can go hang, and my friends, family, and coworkers know damned well that if they want synchronous communication with me they’d better talk to me in person, because I won’t talk on the phone and I will only reply to emails and texts when it’s convenient for me to do so – unless it’s an email/text from my wife.

            Whenever I got a new phone (I’m on my third), the first thing I do after installing apps is duct-taping their mouths shut so that they can’t try to grab my attention with push notifications. I don’t answer to app developers, and I won’t tolerate tech that does not serve me.

            Using a bullet journal is a great idea if it works for you, but I think a deeper attitude adjustment is in order. You might benefit from being more egoistic and demanding that tech serve you, rather than you serving tech. Do not yield to the machine. Bend the machine to your will, and break any machine that will not yield.

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              I think a bigger attitude adjustment is in order.

              Yeah, I agree. I envy your “bend the machine to your will” attitude and I wish I could just snap my fingers and become that. You’re probably thinking “well why can’t you?” - I, and a lot of others in my generation, have a lot more unlearning to do.

              Lastly, yes, of course there are many extremely tech-literate people in the prior generation - they created what everyone uses today, and I take classes from a lot of them. I suppose I should’ve worded that better. Rather what I was trying to express was that as I was growing up, it seemed like none of the adults in my life (or my friends’ lives) knew what the hell an iPod was, how the internet worked, or anything like that. We felt very much on our own to navigate the wave of new tech.

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                I don’t expect you to assert mastery over the machine overnight. I grew up with bigger, less powerful computers than you did, and I’m used to thinking of computers as machines that do exactly what you tell them to do really goddamn fast. I still regard digital assistants like Siri, Cortana, Google’s “Little Nag”, etc as glorified Eliza implementations. Without a shitload of data to draw upon, they’re nothing.

                Rather what I was trying to express was that as I was growing up, it seemed like none of the adults in my life (or my friends’ lives) knew what the hell an iPod was, how the internet worked, or anything like that.

                None of the adults in my life knew much about computers, either. Hell, I didn’t get my first general-purpose computer until I was 18, in 1996. I had to buy the demon-ridden thing myself, and the only software it had was IBM PC-DOS 6. I was on my own, too, but I was used to being on my own. I didn’t have “helicopter parents”.

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              I feel this pretty much miss the point of just silencing your phone and using it when you actually need it. Push notifications are made to save you from checking all your apps where new content is there but you don’t want to open them everyday 1 by 1.

              If you want to save yourself from the trend, don’t deactivate push notification, just let your phone at home while going to work, or let it in another room, in you bag, whatever. The issue is not the push notification itself, but your addiction to new content.

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                Of course, that’s easier said than done. What happens when my girlfriend sends me an urgent message but I don’t see it because my phone is in my backpack/at home/whatever else? That’s what I mean by the “culture” of push notifications - there’s an expectation that you’re available/able to be reached.

                All that said, I do like the idea. All of these comments have really got me thinking about potential solutions. I think a follow-up post is in order.

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                  Trash that culture. In my “culture”, I can’t bring my phone into my work building. The phone is off from about 6a until I remember to turn it back on, maybe 6p. You could probably do something similar without being fully off.

                  In my culture, I don’t even want to figure out how to set up voicemail, and I don’t care. If don knuth is allowed to not have email, I’m allowed to not have voicemail. I hate voicemail. Texting is the way

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                    I have only voicemail (delivered to my chat client as both listenable audio and machine-transcribed text) so that I can have my phone never ring but still know if anyone tries to call me about something (and text them back)

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                    quoting my other comment https://lobste.rs/s/gmdgnf/push_notifications_considered_harmful#c_bljj0c

                    On iphone (I don’t know for other platforms) you have a DND mode with “favorites” that can still notify you. I’ve been on-call several time and just setting SMS/Phone Call on first method of contact on pager duty + using this DND mode was enough for me to let my phone upside down the whole day and still be notified when I needed to be.

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                  I just turn my phone off / on silent / in a small lead box when I want to get on with work. Is this not a common sense solution if you find yourself becoming distracted?

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                    This doesn’t necessarily work for people who need to be available in case of emergency.

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                      On iphone (I don’t know for other platforms) you have a DND mode with “favorites” that can still notify you. I’ve been on-call several time and just setting SMS/Phone Call on first method of contact on pager duty + using this DND mode was enough for me to let my phone upside down the whole day and still be notified when I needed to be.

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                    I agree, polling is much better. I check my phone every 5 minutes to see if something has happened.

                    Push notifications are only a symptom.

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                      I check my phone every 5 minutes to see if something has happened.

                      I hope you don’t mean that literally, as if you did, I’d think having the phone do this for you would be a better option?

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                        My point is that I get push notifications less frequently than I would feel compelled to “poll” the phone myself. 5 minutes is an exaggeration.