This is the Most Overrated Pleasure

No, it’s not the cell phone specifically.

The most overrated is the notification (in all forms).

You see how it happened, don’t you?

First:

  • The notification told us about human interaction:
  • Ring! — “Oh, someone is calling. That’s probably important.”
  • Ding Dong! — “Look, another human being at my door!”
  • Bing! — “An email from my best friend Sally!”

The early notification said:

You are significant. I love you.

Then:

  • The notification is hijacked but our behavior does not change
  • Bing! — “Ooh, there’s a sale on jeans!”
  • Bing! — “Let me just get this message.”
  • Bing! — “Well, I was going to sleep but just got a text from my boss.”

The new notification says:

You are significant. Now pay attention to me.

Now:

  • The notification is in our pockets 24/7
  • Bing! — “Sorry Mom, there’s a comment on my YouTube video.”
  • Bing! — “Lol Twitter.”
  • Bing! — “Hold on, it looks like a politician/celebrity did/said something stupid/hilarious.”

The modern notification says:

You are significant, but only in this reality. Come back to me.

The notification phenomena is so common we don’t even consider it a pleasure, just a part of life. We trade away flow in our work and conversations for a string of tiny dopamine hits.

I don’t talk about notifications because I am above them. I talk about notifications because I was a slave once. The little red circles demanded my attention and I submitted. I substituted real emotion for a cheap high. I surrendered self-love for a few pixels forming a number.

When they made a big one, I was happy.

When I didn’t, I was sad.

You are probably stronger than me. You can probably handle it.

At least, I hope you can.