The sad reality of notification fatigue

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I don’t know about you, but I have never been one who loves push notifications. If you look around in the web, you’ll see some saying it was invented by Apple in June 2009, while others will say Blackberry came up with it in 2003.

No matter who created them, the thing is push notifications are everywhere for smartphone users, that is, for mostly everyone nowadays. And the problem is although some of them can be genuinely useful, I guess I wouldn’t be alone when saying most of them are not, and having to deal with them, even if only for the slightest moment it takes us to dismiss them, is a waste of time.

Push marketing, a 2014 cartoon by Marketoonist

I guess some different things can be pointed out as explanations for so many push notifications in our lives. First, the sole existence of so many apps: messaging apps, social media apps, shopping apps, streaming apps, games and so many other apps, all trying to send us their own messages, as to friendly remind us of whatever, or to say they miss us, only actually trying to engage us with whatever. For every new app we install, 100% of them want us to enable notifications.

Second, a train of thought some app devs have, making them think that we, app users, want to be notified of all and every app information, when that’s rarely the case. Let me illustrate by saying that if I schedule an appointment or set up a reminder so I don’t forget to pay the electricity bill or don’t forget to buy groceries, I want to be remembered about it, ok. But it is not always that I want an online seller to throw random product discounts on my screen, or to say that there are 15 users who have the same interests as me, following that new, obscure, web influencer.

Third, as Tom Fishburne put it last week, “Push notifications often reflect the marketing myopia that drive a lot of customer experience. Marketers often inflate the role that their brands actually play in people’s lives”. This is so well said, because it does reflect some apps and their needy and totally inappropriate behavior. After all, it’s not because I bought something in a supermarket, drugstore, shoe store or any retailer that I’m going to immediately want to buy something else. To the extreme, it might be that I won’t buy anything at that specific place ever again. In any case, I don’t need extra push notifications, and even less, a notification fatigue.

Now, I know all the push notifications hell is avoidable, to a point. We can always completely turn them off, or select which notifications we want to see or not, and it’s nice to see that there are so many serious devs who implement the ability for us, users, to choose what we want to be notified about. These are serious people. But the thing is there are apps which ask us to enable notifications for genuine reasons, like informing me of when my ride will arrive, or when my product is coming towards home, but, in doing so, also start to shoot a lot of other push notifications, with offerings, discounts, so on and so forth.

And these are the apps that, behaving in such a way, are bad players. When I notice such behavior, I usually mercilessly uninstall them. But I’m obliged to live with a couple of them, as I depend on their services for a reason or another, and these apps don’t allow me to choose what to receive. Sad.

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