On duty

Something I’ve noticed about myself as of late is that I loathe notifications, from the phone or some other computer. They assert themselves: I am demanding you pay attention to me. Notifications do not discern or relent. They just rap, insensible and Pavlovian, a chime or ding or hiss or burp, regardless of the hour or context, animated and alluring with their promise of satisfaction should you just bestow your attention upon them. That promise is broken more often than not, at least by the criteria of the digital zeitgeist. Yet our depressed, compulsive minds can’t seem to stop buying into the promise time and again.

It’s not that notifications are bad news through and through. A cheerful text from a friend or an alert that a request has been approved are certainly embraced. But I don’t thrive on being at the beck and call of all the world, or at least an awfully great swath of it. We honor ancestral ways of life through fads like the Paleo diet, yet think little about our consumption of unnatural “processed” junk for the mind in the form of banal emails, notifications and sale alerts whose value we are forever dubious of. Why the discrepancy?

This phenomenon of being attached at the hip to the ostensible world has created an expectation in people that we should all be available around the clock. Our minds really shouldn’t ever rest, always receptive to be fed the next great bite of that empty caloric promise. But this is no way to live.

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