Notifications: Your Frequent Purveyor of Dopamine …
The thing about a notification is that it’s letting you know through anticipatory dopamine release that there might be something there. [The] anticipation of pleasure actually elevates dopamine at an even higher level than the actual pleasure itself … that blip of dopamine is letting you know that you want to check the phone … that’s part of what compels us to do it, over and over and over again with no end in sight because you never get enough of it … Notifications are one of the most dangerous aspects of the smartphone because you’re chasing the high. Most addiction is really chasing that original hit that you got that [you] might have liked at one point and now you’re just chasing it forever.
… And Distraction
Perhaps for this reason, a study conducted by the late Stanford communication professor Clifford Nass and his colleagues found that adult media multitaskers exposed to multiple streams of electronic information simultaneously do not remember facts or solve problems very well. Why? They become unable to prevent irrelevant information from surfacing in their minds. In other words, they become so highly distracted that they cannot concentrate effectively on what’s most important—leading, in the words of Nass and his colleagues, “to the surprising result that heavy media multitaskers performed worse on a test of task-switching ability.”
The Choice is Yours
What does this all mean? That you have a choice to make. Option A is to allow constant notifications to disrupt your capacity to concentrate, to be fully present with the people you care about and to move the needle on important career projects. Option B: simply turn them off. Without the constant pings reminding you to stop doing something that matters to you and to instead pay attention to the social and cognitive information that thousands of app developers believe is more important for you, you will take a not-so-small step in reclaiming your freedom.
By developing healthier habits with respect to how you use technology, you will rescind your membership as a card-carrying member of the head down tribe. Instead, you will walk the streets of your community as a free human being with the presence of heart and mind to develop the relationships that will nurture you and the people around you into a more socially robust and meaningful future.
About the Author:
Anthony Silard, Ph.D. is a world-renowned leadership educator and coach. He has coached G-20 cabinet ministers and the CEOs and senior leaders of Fortune 500 companies such as Disney, IBM and GE and the world’s largest nonprofits such as CARE and Save the Children. He has taught leadership at the Monterrey Institute of Technology, California State University San Bernardino, Claremont McKenna College and IESE Business School and has lectured on leadership at Harvard, Stanford and Georgetown. His new book, Screened In: The Art of Living Free in the Digital Age, was just released in March 2020. You can find more articles on his weekly blog The Art of Living Free.