The accessibility in communication has blurred the lines between formal and informal forms of communication. With information available to us at our fingertips, there’s an expectation to be constantly online and updated. There’s no excuse to not do so since notifications buzzing around us. However, what is the cost of information influx?
Ping. You just put your phone down and were about to take a moment to yourself to break away from the constant influx of messages and notifications. However, you just heard the high-pitched sound that itches you increasingly until you can’t control yourself and finally give in to your urges. Before you know it, the muscle memory of your fingers swiftly types your passcode, and you have finally accessed WhatsApp. No worries, though, since it was just your friend reacting to your previous text. Since you have already made an effort to open WhatsApp, you might as well casually scroll through a few unread messages. There is, however, no such thing as casual on WhatsApp, and you are now obligated to reply to those messages because you might as well do it now.
Many of us are chronically online due to the demands of accessible communication. Even subconsciously, we constantly crave stimulation because we are accustomed to how conveniently we can access information. Getting updated is considered the bare minimum in keeping up with today’s globalised world. Notifications play an important role in ensuring you are on top of all your commitments and updates. In some ways, notifications ease communication for us because we don’t have to go the extra mile to get updated. WhatsApp groups are synonymous with a college notification board as they are the only way to get crucial updates on any developments in regard to your classes and societies. Notifications are a necessity to survive the fast-paced nature of college. However, just as easily, they can become an overwhelming source of anxiety.
There are several mechanisms to reduce the impact of notifications. For most of us, it is keeping our phones on silent mode and returning to our phones at our convenience. However, since our phones are perpetually glued to us, the silent mode feature is almost redundant in shielding us from our notifications. However, you may mute your notifications which prevents notifications from even appearing on your home screen. As most of us are acquainted with, blindly muting our notifications often has repercussions on our professional and personal lives.
Turning off all my notifications hardly ever works for me. I just feel like as college students we don’t really have the luxury of just muting all our notifications because the messages that we receive from college often require our immediate attention. Even when I choose to get back to messages at a convenient to me, I’m bombarded with over 50 messages from different groups and it creates even more stress because I have to go through all those messages to make sure I didn’t miss out on anything important,” a first-year student discussed.
The first come, first serve basis is how opportunities are grasped in WhatsApp groups. Even a 30-second delay in response can lead you to lose an opportunity. This is exactly where the pressure starts to arise with notifications. There’s an inherent need to constantly be available and be the first person to take hold of such opportunities. Although showing initiation may appear to be the bare minimum form of showing commitment, over time the constant influx of messages and notifications takes a toll on your ability to respond. The continuous notifications eventually cause lethargy and you lose track of keeping up with important developments.
“I remember the first day of college when all of a sudden I was added to so many groups and in those groups there were links to other groups. Official groups, unofficial groups, opportunity groups, and students of 2025/26 groups. It was so overwhelming trying to keep up with all of it because you are new to college and you are already stressed enough and you don’t want to miss out on important updates. I remember I joined a group a few hours later, and the entire CR elections had already been conducted and I had absolutely no clue about it,” a first-year student observed.
In the interest of professional commitments, somehow personal commitments take a back seat. In the wake of keeping up with emails and WhatsApp messages, answering texts from your friends and family may seem trivial. Due to this, your personal relationships suffer as you may not actively contribute towards staying in touch due to the lethargy that accompanies meeting your professional updates.
I have all my groups from college pinned. Since there are over 25 of them, I hardly even see messages from my friends because there is always something going on in my college groups. And they are very important and if I don’t get back to them in a few hours, I’m usually tagged. It becomes so draining trying to keep up with all this that I just completely forget that I haven’t even replied to my friend who texted me 2 days ago” lamented a student.
The urgency that accompanies notifications often is fueled by an intrinsic need to be available and immediately deal with the issue. Over time, just the mere sound of a notification can cause a wave of anxiety due to the urgency it creates. They can also be very overwhelming especially when the group chats are spammed with messages that compel you to answer them immediately. In the process, you start disassociating yourself from your surroundings and remain stuck with the updates and commitments. Due to the accessibility of your presence, answering texts carve away your relaxation time and blur the boundaries between your priorities.
Especially with utilizing multiple devices, we are even more charged with notifications. Our laptops, phones, iPads and Tablets are constantly buzzing with notifications from all sorts of social media applications. Although disconnecting from the chaos of our devices is intimidating, protecting our mental peace is much more crucial. Sometimes we may miss catching up on our emails and texts but instead of feeling guilty about it, we need to assert boundaries and compartmentalize our priorities to preserve our sanity and peace.
Image Credits: Macworld
Sri Sidhvi Dindi