The thrill and validation that comes from knowing you have something waiting just for you can be consuming, even to the point where it becomes detrimental to your health and your productivity.
When researchers at Carnegie Mellon and Spanish telecommunications company Telefónica attempted to recruit people to join a 2015 study in which participants would turn off notifications for a week, they struggled to find anyone willing to do it.
Researchers found that many of the participants, though reluctant in the beginning, actually enjoyed the experience. They were found to be more productive and less distracted. And though many reported anxious feelings about missing important messages from friends, family, and colleagues, two-thirds of the participants were motivated into changing their notifications long-term.
Researchers checked back in two years later and found that 13 of the participants still have altered notification settings, with some opting to turn notifications for certain apps off completely, and others employing a strategy of turning on the "do not disturb" function on a regular basis.
And while the study had a small sample size and has not been peer-reviewed or duplicated, the findings make sense from a psychological standpoint.
In a recent interview with GQ, comedian Aziz Ansari, who has recently deleted all internet capability from his phone, explained his decision, saying:
Whenever you check for a new post on Instagram or whenever you go on The New York Times to see if there’s a new thing, it’s not even about the content. It’s just about seeing a new thing. You get addicted to that feeling. You’re not going to be able to control yourself. So the only way to fight that is to take yourself out of the equation and remove all these things. What happens is, eventually you forget about it. You don’t care anymore…I’ve been doing it for a couple months, and it’s worked. I’m reading, like, three books right now. I’m putting something in my mind. It feels so much better than just reading the Internet and not remembering anything.