I just turned off the notification light on my phone. It notified me in a way that caused me to be interrupted from what I was doing. It notified me in a way that took me out of my world and into its, one of incessant demands upon my attention which rarely amounted to much value.
Now I must choose to check when there’s something waiting for me in that world of distracting indulgences. It’s up to me to decide when it’s appropriate to stop what I’m doing and check on the world beyond my current one.
The incessant throbbing of the notification light on our phones has become a symbol of the constant demands upon our attention which they so brilliantly exert. By choosing these devices as the ones that may “wake” us from the present moment, from the task at hand, we’re handing our ability to concentrate over to them, making hostages of our attention. Our attention is held hostage when that light’s off. Our attention waits until that light flashes. Then, as it begins its frequent, coloured flashing, our attention becomes enraptured by it, unable to be free until it’s addressed, until we deal with whatever message awaits us on our phone and we’ve forgotten what it was we were doing.
One might protest that they can work while that light is flashing, but I’d put forth that they are probably just caught up in the unfortunate folly that is multitasking—caught between working on the likely-important task at hand and the equally-as-difficult task of ignoring that blinking light (or, as is more likely, trying to guess what message that light could possibly be hinting at).
I’ve talked a lot about the flashing light on phones, but the same could be said of vibrations, or even the “ping” of a new message sound. The flashing light is a particularly bad one, because of its incessant nature and cold, quiet background status. The others, at least, are a bit more intentional in their efforts to awaken us from our focus. That doesn’t make their efforts any more valid.
We need to start deciding when it’s appropriate to be interrupted and when it isn’t. When working, especially, we need to put aside whatever can interrupt us. But I think that the notification light is exerting its influence too far into our lives, as we let it interrupt everything from dinner discussions to reading sessions.
The present moment is sacred. Fight your devices to keep it that way.