I ignored 424 push notifications last week, here’s what I learned…

For the last week, I’ve paid much closer attention to my phone usage. In fact, last weekend I charted every time I used my phone for one 24-hour period. I found that instead of reading long-form stories, I was relying on the nearly 61 news notifications I received per day to inform me. The caveat being that I wasn’t even reading the notifications.

The Categories

The hundreds of alerts I received last week fell into three categories:

  • News Alerts. These are notifications from various news apps I’ve downloaded over the years, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Huffington Post, Fox News, Flipboard, Countable, and more. 
  • Social Media Alerts. Alerts in this category came from Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and Facebook. They broke down into two subcategories:
    • Relevant Alerts. These alerts are messages sent to me by one sender. They are essential forms of direct communication.
    • Irrelevant Alerts. In contrast to the relevant alerts, irrelevant alerts are sent by the app to a mass group. They are impersonal. For example, Twitter might send me an alert that 14 people I’m following are tweeting about Roger Federer.
  • Personal Alerts. This category includes text messages, calls, and voicemails. Essentially, they are notifications that perform the basic function of a cellphone: to get in contact with someone.

The Alert Hierarchy

By allowing so many Push Notifications, I’d trained myself to ignore alerts that weren’t immediately relevant to me. I’d unconsciously created an alert hierarchy for the hundreds of notifications I was receiving.

    1. Notifications I look for. Personal messages and sometimes relevant social media alerts.
    2. Notifications I look through. Social media alerts and sometimes news alerts.
    3. Notifications I ignore. Mostly news alerts.

The Consequences of the Snippet Barrage

My iPhone’s notification center has become like a treasure hunt, and it’s often very difficult to find what I’m looking for. This has real-life consequences. Not only do I miss out on important personal alerts, but on the country’s, and world’s, most pressing issues.

Receiving so many news notifications led me to believe I was engaging with print journalism much more than I actually was. On the day I tracked my media consumption habits, I read three articles, two of which I found via social media. This constant barrage of information snippets was keeping me out of the loop.

I’m not alone in ignoring most of my phone’s notifications. A study by Accengage, which analyzed over 50 billion mobile Push Notifications from January until mid-June 2018, found that the average click rate was just 7.8% across all devices.

The Solutions

If you feel overwhelmed by your notifications, here are a few steps you can take.

  1. Analyze your technology habits. You might find a stark difference between what news you think you consume and what news you actually consume.
  2. Turn off all your notifications. While it is difficult to get over the fear of missing out, this is an essential step to fostering more interaction with the news. The content will always be there, but you have to seek it out and read it.
  3. Turn on one app’s notifications. A good app might be Flipboard or Apple News because they curate different news sources, but only send a few notifications a day.

About the Author

Luke Scorziell

Mr. Scorziell created The Edge of Ideas when he was 15 years old. After a few years of blogging he found a passion for podcasting and now regularly has guests on his show, Bills with Luke Scorziell. Luke just began his freshman year at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism. You can catch up with him on Twitter @theedgeofideas. Find out more about Luke and his unique journey

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