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Phone addiction: notifications raise inattention and hyperactivity


Noisli Blog - Notifications raise inattention and hyperacctivity

A recent study lead by Kostadin Kushlev of the University of Virginia showed that the rise in smartphones and thus the increasing frequency of constant notifications fighting for our attention are causing an increase in inattention and hyperactivity, symptoms associated with certain types of neurdiversity such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Participants reported higher levels of inattention and hyperactivity when alerts were on than when alerts were off. Higher levels of inattention in turn predicted lower productivity and psychological well- being.

To understand how widespread our phone addiction is, just ask yourself how often you look at your phone during the day.

A study conducted by researcher Dr Sally Andrews of the Nottingham Trent University showed that people check their smartphone around 85 times a day for a total of five hours during a day!

Noisli Blog - Notifications raise inattention and hyperactivity 2

This means that 1/3 of the time we’re awake, we’re staring at a phone screen!

The problem however seems to be another one. Out of the 85 times we’re looking at our phone, more than half of those interactions are shorter than 30 seconds. We’re constantly checking and checking and checking…but why?

Fear of missing out

It’s called FOMO (Fear of missing out). We check our phones out of pure habit. Someone might have sent us a super important message, and perhaps we missed it despite having all notifications turned on.

But don’t think that muting notifications solves the problem. Muting notifications can lead to anxiety and an increase in FOMO, thus making compulsive checking of your phone even more frequent.

A study showed that muting notifications while work had a positive impact on productivity but the same positive impact is not true with muted notifications outside of work.

It almost seems as though we enjoy being distracted. Often, the potential distraction is more enticing than the task at hand. We are eager to read a pleasant text message from a friend, admire a beautiful picture on Instagram, or watch a funny video on YouTube. We love to be entertained.

Of course we’re not checking our phones to be stressed out by a reminder of an upcoming deadline or something annoying. No, we want to see if somebody is thinking of us or if something can brighten our day.

Having all those notifications popping up is like having a chocolate bar right in front of you. All those notifications are just screaming for your attention. And, of course, sooner or later, you’ll fall into temptation!

However there seems to be an easy solution.

According to researchers, the best way to deal with this is to simply put your smartphone away where you cannot see it, such as in a bag or backpack. This way, you eliminate the trigger of seeing your phone. If you still feel the urgent need to check your phone, the process is much more laborious.

How to silence phone notifications

If you are still unable to detach yourself from your phone, here are some adjustments you should make to silence notifications and hopefully secure some uninterrupted deep work time.

1. Disable app notifications

Go into the Notification settings of your phone and disable all the apps which keep sending you notifications you don’t need.

2. Set your phone to “Do Not Disturb”

This will automatically mute all notifications. You can schedule from when to when your “Do Not Disturb” mode is active and also whose calls are allowed to come through. Perfect to keep you reassured that if something important happens you will get the call.

3. Activate Airplane Mode

Muting notification will still show them on the screen so entering “Airplane Mode” is the best way to cut yourself off the web for a little while.

Avatar photo Written by Sabine Staggl

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