It could be a notification about anything: a text from your best friend, an email, or a DM on Instagram. No matter what it is, getting that alert via vibration and/or ding! can send a wave of brief panic through your body, even if it’s a trivial random news notification about five new recipes to try this week.
If you ever feel those anxious symptoms when you get a notification, you’re not alone. Although people are already constantly checking their phones and usually waiting for some sort of notification, actually receiving one can send the mind spiraling. There are tons of reasons that notifications can trigger these anxious feelings. For example, you might think that an incoming text means that you did something wrong and the person texting you is calling you out on something. An email could potentially be from a professor telling you you flunked an assignment or a rejection letter from somewhere that you had applied to. You might even get anxious over the fact that a notification could be your crush liking your recent Instagram post and what that implies.
Then there’s the other side to receiving notifications. Now that someone’s reached out to you, your mind may start worrying about how to respond. If it’s not someone you don’t talk to frequently, it can be even more stressful thinking about how you respond in order to maintain whatever relationship you want to have with them. What about timing? Now that you have received the notification, would it make sense to respond right away? What if that person responded to you hours after you reached out? What does that mean about your relationship?
These moments of panic that come with receiving notifications can be triggers of social anxiety and can cause catastrophic thinking. We worry about what someone potentially has to say to us, we worry about how to respond, we fear ruining a relationship, and so on, just because of a simple bubble that appears on our lock screen.
One easy solution to avoid these feelings can be to completely disable notifications. This is definitely a possibility – it’s been tried and studied before in a “Do Not Disturb” challenge where 30 people turned off alerts for a full 24 hours. While those who participated felt less distracted and checked their phones less often, they still felt some sort of anxiety about not just missing out on communicating with others, but also felt anxiety that they were missing important or urgent information.
Not unlike temporarily deactivating apps as a way of doing a mini social media cleanse, you can turn off notifications for certain apps. If you’re in a group chat that overwhelms you, you can put them on do not disturb and check it periodically. This doesn’t mean that you’re not receiving notifications, but what it does is gives you the power to look at, respond to, and process notifications at your own pace versus feeling rushed to do so all within that millisecond that you receive a push notification.
Notifications can be fun to receive, but they can not only cause stress, but keep you glued to your phone with the hopes that you’ll receive one. Disabling them, or even some, can help ease your mind and give you more control over your phone and social media usage.
Do you have notifications disabled for any of the major social media accounts that you use? How often do you check your phone? Do you feel anxious when you receive a notification, and if so, what do you get anxious about?