Notifications on our phone screens are a constant source of exhaustion

How many unread WhatsApp messages do you have? I have a few dozen. Hello messages from the whole clan, press releases from friends in the media, messages from distant relatives about how I’m doing, and a few old colleagues asking for tech help. Additionally, there are requests for comments on articles on WhatsApp. Links to stories my friends thought would shed some light on the state of affairs in the country, and memes they found funny and with hashtags. There are also a lot of unanswered calls. On top of that, there are Instagram messages, Facebook Messenger messages, emails, and text messages (uh… nobody takes them seriously anymore).

Just thinking about the mountain of information I’m expected to consume on a daily basis is anxiety-provoking. And I would claim no moral superiority. I subject other people to a similar onslaught of memes, links, and my overindulgent thoughts on my blogs and social media pages. How exactly are we supposed to follow? Every unanswered call, unopened message and unread link leaves behind a trail of guilt and anxiety. How are we going to deal with that person next time, if we haven’t even watched the humorous video they shared with us?

Our mobile phones are a living embodiment of anxiety. It’s such a permanent fixture in our hands that it’s started to look like an appendage or a prosthesis that you only remove before sleeping. It’s impossible not to pay attention to the ever-increasing clutter of notifications on your screen. It is also not possible to fully commit to it. Then we find ourselves in an eternal void of FOMO, guilt, and lack of connection.

Many would prescribe quitting WhatsApp or other social media platforms as the only way to escape this ongoing feeling of anxiety. However, this may not be possible for professionals who remain connected to their workgroups through these platforms.

So how do you work through the clutter and gain clarity on how best to optimize the use of these platforms without damaging your mental health?

One of the easiest ways to break away would be to draw gadget boundaries. And these are personal boundaries. You are solely responsible for being responsible to yourself. Keep a deadline. Whether you don’t touch the phone after a certain time of the day, taking into account your working hours and other important factors in a practical way. Second, if you can manage it, take social media sabbaticals every few months.

The very belief that all the messages piling up are stressing you out is detrimental to you. Work at the level of beliefs. Don’t let social media posts overwhelm you. Create a psychological shield that separates your reality from the portal of connection. The portal exists and you can choose your time to engage with it. Research has shown that stress isn’t such a bad thing. But when we believe it is causing us problems and affecting our health, that is when it begins to become deadly.

Finally, let’s talk about addiction. According to a study, we tap, swipe and click on our phones 2617 times a day. For most people, the phone is the first thing they see when they wake up and it’s the last thing they see before going to sleep. Yet despite all this time spent on our mobiles we are not able to answer everyone. So you know it’s addictive and doesn’t work in your favor, if you find it easier to scroll through notifications but don’t have the strength to actively engage. If an active engagement with notification exists, you are most likely addicted to your phone. It’s not just eating into your productive hours, it’s also bombarding you with information you don’t care about.

Here are some ways to protect your mental resources from the powerful onslaught of notifications:

1. Schedule calls with people who matter. Always. Let them know that you may not be able to reply to the message immediately. But if they’re important, call them.

2. Instead of feeling guilty for not networking with your professional connections, take ten minutes to half an hour once or twice a month to do so. It is vital that you do. Message, call, email – anything. Do it. You may not always have this comfortable job. You might need a professional favor. People and networks are all we have in such dire situations.

3. Put official communications in the mail. There is a psychological separation between WhatsApp and email. Even when both apps exist on your phone, on WhatsApp the communication should be faster. On the courier, things can wait until the next business day.

4. Also email your friends. Engage with them. Write to them from time to time to tell them how much you have missed them.

5. Use zoom calls to join family or friends and community gatherings once in a while rather than constantly tweeting them on the verge of exhaustion.

6. The time you save through micro-posting and disengaged engagement can be used to form real, relevant connections.

7. Don’t feel guilty about someone trying to tell you that you don’t care enough if you don’t respond.

8. Finally, set your rules and stick to them.

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Posted: Sunday, March 20, 2022, 07:00 IST

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