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Staying Sane In A World Full Of Bleeps & Vibrations


In opinion / By Guise Bule / 19 January 2017

I carry my iPhone with me 24/7 and it never stops vibrating or bleeping, when I think back at how long this has been going on for, I struggle to remember a time when my phone did not constantly try to alert me of something.

Thinking back over the last ten years of my life, I have arrived at the inescapable conclusion that I am a slave to the bleeps and vibrations, even worse I didn't realise I was a slave until it was too late.

Before I had an iPhone I used to carry a Blackberry and the bleeps mostly came from two sources, emails or BBM. With my iPhone I live in some sort of application fragmentation hell, with communication threads spread across more than ten different applications and the fragmentation only serves to further entrench my slavery.

I get bleeps from all kinds of apps all of the time, iMessage, FaceTime, Messenger, WhatsApp, Slack, Twitter, Linkedin, Tinder, email, calendar, GoToMeeting, Ebay, Etsy and the list goes on, the fragmentation never stops and before you know it you have 20 apps on your iPhone all bleeping at you and vibrating for attention all of the time.

When you consider how our communications channel is smashed into pieces, before being scattered over twenty different apps, its a wonder we know what any of us are actually saying or thinking at all.

The fragmentation further deepens our misery by attracting other peoples fragmentation to us, muddying the waters around what other people say to us. We have all found ourselves wanting to carry on a conversation, but forgetting where we had it, bouncing round different applications looking for where the thread last left off.

If the people you communicate most with also happen to use multiple IM apps, they amplify the fragmentation further and there is no escaping this, you can delete WhatsApp but the cute girl you have been talking to can no longer message you, you can delete Messenger but then your mother starts to worry.

I have tried deleting different applications before in an effort to decrease the level of fragmentation, but it doesn't work and all you are really doing is shutting out a specific group of people in your life, the ones who favour that specific app. You are basically telling them "sorry, find another way to communicate with me" and for sure they can probably work it out, but usually they don't bother and you just end up excluding yourself.

My most recent attempt to put a stop to this madness came to me like an epiphany, I suddenly realised that all I had to do was mute my notifications, all of them, to check my phone when I felt like it and so I did.

I came to the conclusion that nothing was so urgent that it has a right to interrupt my chain of thought, peace of mind, a moment I was enjoying or conversation I happened to be having. I decided that in order to stay sane in a world full of beeps, I would not give anyone the right to invade my space, if something was really urgent people could call me (like in the old days) and had my number.

At first it was wonderful, my phone stopped bleeping completely, but the problem was that nobody ever actually called me on my phone. The conversations I have happen on GoToMeeting/Skype/FaceTime and unless I actually call somebody, my direct phone line sits silent and unloved because nobody wants to talk anymore.

The only people who actually call me are sales people and everyone else just kept on relentlessly sending me their messages, completely oblivious to the notification slavery that I was trying to escape from and sometimes it felt like they were all conspiring to keep me enslaved, in silent agreement that I must never be allowed to escape.

The only notifications I saw were number badges on the individual app icons to tell me how many messages I had and I only looked at my phone when I started wondering what was going on out there. It was awful, every time I looked at my phone I had red numbers glaring angrily at me and they refused to go away.

Before I would pride myself on keeping my app icons free of those red number badges and the second an app bleeped at me, I would go into the app and either read the message to make the number go away. Suddenly though, every time I looked at my iPhone it was full of red number badges all silently shouting at me for attention.

I had no way of knowing which was more important, which should be attended to first or what the messages behind these mysterious numbers were about and this perplexed me until I turned off the number notifications so they couldn't angrily taunt me anymore and for the first time, it started to feel like I was finally free.

Of course, I wasn't free at all, it was just an illusion. What I had actually done is shut my self off from the outside world by covering my eyes, like a baby who thinks if you cannot see anyone else, they cannot see you either.

I wasn't freeing myself, I was actually really annoying everyone who wanted to communicate with me. It really bothers people when you don't respond to their messages immediately and makes live chat impossible.

I was oblivious to a response from my colleague and I had no idea that my CEO was urgently messaging me, that our designer was urgently trying to get feedback or that I had been invited to lunch by a pretty girl, I was missing significant notifications that in reality, I would have wanted to instantly respond to.

Even though I have never guaranteed anyone an instant response to anything, it seems to be what the world expects from you and if you try to deny the world an instant response, it punishes you in some way.

By silencing the bleeps, I had isolated myself from the action and taken my finger off the pulse.

At my level thats something that you just cannot do, I have too much responsibility to just close my eyes and pretend nothing is urgent. In this modern world we live in, everything is urgent and so slowly, under the pressure of this, I turned my notifications back on.

So here I am again, just like you, slave to the bleeps and trying to keep my sanity, I tried to escape, I tried to become a free man, but I didn't make it and the bleeps eventually won.

So how do you stay sane in a world full of bleeps?

You must embrace the beeps, become one with the beeps and learn to love them, or you must become a hermit living alone in a shack with nothing but your dog and a good book to keep you company.

How do you cope? Let me know in the comments!

Guise Bule

Guise Bule

Spring in my step, twinkle in my eye and a fire in my belly. I am the Group Marketing Director at Nasstar PLC and Chairman of the English Breakfast Society where I champion a great tradition.

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