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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments


Too many alerts?

When was the last time you suspended all notifications on your phone? Maybe in airplane mode or at night (and even then, only if your alarm can still work), right?

Of course, you don’t want to miss your boss’ urgent email, an alert about a family emergency in the middle of the night, or that call from the school when your child is sick. Text during dinner? Sorry kid, hold that thought. WhatsApp alert during a date? Before your tell me about your hobbies, I just need to respond to this forward from my 30 best friends (I mean, they saw I viewed the message — thanks, WhatsApp). Don’t you entrepreneurs love it when the investors pull out their devices mid-pitch? Sounds like it could be a scene from a Shaun of the Dead sequel, doesn’t it?

The mindless action of reaching for our phones in the middle of anything makes us living zombies in today’s world.

For the strong few of you who purposefully resist zombification, you have to use your finite store of self-control constantly, all day (don’t check your phone, don’t check your phone, don’t check your phone…).

I have mixed feelings about this. Since my life, like everyone else's, has pretty much been taken over by the smart phone, I admit to being annoyed by the constant reminders it keeps spitting out at me. The "new mail" alert is the most aggravating, since I always feel compelled to check it out and nine times out of 10 it turns out to be an ad from a company I bought something from online years ago.

But some of them are incredibly useful. Now that I'm texting a lot, it's nice to know when I have one waiting. And the "missed call" alert is one most of us have long been familiar with because of answering machines. Now that I've started entering appointments in my phone instead of writing them on a calendar, I really appreciate the ability to set up a beeping reminder anywhere from 15 minues to an entire day before.

While we're on the subject, Linda Chavez has some interesting thoughts on being ever more connected but feeling less and less connected:

I can follow what friends and colleagues are doing via social media. But it's not the same as walking down the hallway to chat with a co-worker or grabbing a quick lunch together.

Connecting face to face used to be effortless. Now it takes planning, coordination and lots of lead time, usually scheduled via email.

Electronic communication is convenient but impersonal. Emails are bad enough; texting is worse. Yet I find myself using both to communicate not just with associates and friends but family, too. It's quicker and more convenient to text a note from my phone than it is to place a call, which the recipient may be too busy to answer. But even a well-crafted email can't convey the same message as a phone call. And when it comes to communicating with those you love, a voice expresses a rich emotional range missing from a few hurried words flashing on a screen.

Again, there is good and bad and, as she concludes in the column, the trick is to find the right balance between the old and new ways. My sister and I text a lot, and it can indeed become impersonal. If that were the only way we communicated, it would be quite unsatisfactory. But we also talk on the phone just about every day and see each other in person a couple of times a month, so texting becomes a good supplement, not crucial to our communications but a useful way for quick updates on mundane matters.