Breaking the iPhone Addiction I Didn’t Think I Had: Notification Weaning

Badge App Icons


“How do you discern an addiction?” Richard Foster asks. “Very simply, you watch for undisciplined compulsions.”

I’d add, watch also for things that enable those compulsions.

If checking a tiny screen is a compulsion, notifications enable the habit.

In my case, I chose to delete Facebook off my phone altogether, but still having an account led me either to (a) check it through a mobile Web browser or (b) re-download the app to my phone. And Facebook for me, was not worth working toward the discipline of even limited interaction. Why not just be done with it and spend my time on other things? So I am finding other ways to stay in touch with the friends and family members that constituted my final reason for remaining on that platform.


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But I still experience a desire to check my phone–for something. I could never not have an email account, and I use text messaging too often to go back to a ground line alone. And I am out and about enough that Google Maps and Safari are useful to me when on the go.

What about notifications?

I was in the working world way too long before I realized that (a) you could turn off new email notifications in Microsoft Outlook and (b) you could close Outlook and open it only when you wanted to check email. I know. Novel ideas.

They apply to the phone, too. You don’t need email notifications on your phone–you can turn off sounds, lock screen notifications, and badge app icons, so that you only know if a new email comes in when you are checking at a designated time. That way you don’t have to resist the urge to see what new email just came in while you’re changing lanes on the highway! The compulsion-enabler that is a notification won’t even be there.

Same thing with text messages–it’s rare that you’ll receive an urgent cry for help via text or email, so make sure your phone ringer is on, and put some or all text messages on Do Not Disturb. You can still keep your badge app icon on, so that if you have gone a whole two hours without texting and can’t stand it anymore, you can simply look at the icon on your screen and see if you’ve gotten anything new. But we don’t really need a noise or vibration every time one comes in.

So, too, with other apps–I’m glad to know, Ebay, that there are new items available for bidding that match my saved search, but can’t it wait? That notification–whether it’s a banner or a badge app icon I MUST PROCESS AND CLEAR OUT–is unnecessary.


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If I may be so bold as to advise you, reader: allow yourself to go through your apps. Which ones do you really need notifying you there is something new, and which ones merely enable a compulsion to check your phone? And, most of all, relax–you can always pick up the phone to check anything you need to at any time. But with notifications at bay, you will start to experience the constant device checking less and less as an undisciplined compulsion.


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Stay tuned for more related confessions and reflections:

  • On Facebook, Off Facebook, On Twitter, Off Twitter… On Instagram
  • Taking Email Off Your Phone (Mostly)
  • Why I’m Taking the 16 GB iPhone Upgrade over 64 GB
  • Pre-Dinner, Child-Induced Frenzy and My Escape Screen
  • Analog Again

3 thoughts on “Breaking the iPhone Addiction I Didn’t Think I Had: Notification Weaning

  1. Excellent reflection/reminder Abram.

    One of the harder technology choices I’ve made in the past year was deciding the “downgrade” to a “dumb phone” (one that just makes calls and texts) because I was tired of wasting time on my phone instead of being productive. It’s been more of an adjustment than i thought it would be at first, but I’ve come to really appreciate the freedom from notifications and the impulse to check messages or get online all the time.

    Looking forward to more of your reflections soon! JJP

    1. Thanks, Jacob! I love the choice you made–that was (is) really tempting to me, too. Would love to hear more of your thoughts/experience with “dumbing down.”

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