Push notification technology was first introduced in June 2009. The technology was designed to alert users about new messages, emails, social media updates, and other events. The benefits were quite significant, but over the years, the use of push notifications has increased enormously, reaching the point where we are undoubtedly bombarded with various information, which constantly aims and competes for our attention.
To date, little is understood by the general population regarding the nature and effect of such notifications on the daily lives of mobile users, although the research is now both significant and conclusive.
As the American National Center for Biotechnology Information's (NCBI) analysis of the effects of push notifications demonstrates, smartphone overuse is an emerging social problem as it affects users' productivity and performance. This analysis shows, among other things, the addiction to smartphones and the stress caused on users by automatic notifications.
The average U.S. smartphone user receives up to 46 push notifications a day, reports Business of Apps. Statistics show that only 18% of users find notifications to be useful, and 31% don’t find these messages to be helpful at all. However, 50% of users don’t mind receiving notifications at all as long as it’s by their own choice.
Consequently, we could say that part of the stress and smartphone overuse is due to constant notifications. Notifications are based on the model of "random reinforcement", which in other words means reward at irregular intervals. This is designed to capture the attention of the user. The notifications per se aren’t the real issue, but we should take into account the problem generated by the number of notifications the user receives and whether they agree with the volume.
The link between smartphone addiction and push notifications is significantly strong. It is not only causing unnecessary stress and affecting users' ability to stay focused on their daily tasks, but they are also having a negative effect on our ability to perform in general, as it is constantly intervening with our cognitive functions and concentration.
User’s mental health
Katarina Gospic, neuroscientist and medicine doctor at Karolinska Institutet, said in 2017: “Stress-related symptoms have increased 100% in the past 10 years and we have actually had smartphones for 10 years”. She also believed push notifications were contributing to an increasingly unfocused and stressed environment.
Four years later, in 2021, another NCBI survey revealed that excessive smartphone use is associated with health problems in users, especially in adolescents and young adults. Conclusively, the study shows that "excessive use of smartphones is associated with psychiatric, cognitive, emotional, medical and brain changes that should be considered by health and education professionals".
For that matter, although we users are aware of the consequences of excessive smartphone use, there is not much we can do about it since we are not offered an easy solution.
Making technology socially sustainable
Thanks to smartphones we have infinite possibilities to access the desired information wherever we are and at any time of the day. This day-to-day tool allows access and brings great convenience to users around the world. However, there is a backside to the way we use our smartphones today. Excessive use and the constant need to stay updated have proven to have a negative impact on users. Not only does it interfere with our daily lives, but it is affecting our mental health and attention span.
According to the analyzed information, the key lies in the kind of notifications that are being sent and the time at which we receive them. Imagine not having to constantly check your phone for updates or messages, but only receiving notifications when something urgent needs to be brought to your attention or with other kinds of information that you, the user, wish to receive at a given time. This requires a sophisticated filter that separates importance from irrelevance.
Incorporating a filter into a smartwatch allows the user to still receive all the notifications to the phone, but to let the smartwatch determine whether or not the notification deserves to steal the user’s focus. In other words, if the phone vibrates but the watch doesn’t, it is conclusive that the user can ignore it. In that sense, the smartwatch becomes a digital gatekeeper that allows the user to stay focused and composed without the risk of missing anything important. The control is transferred from the sender to the recipient, which decreases screen time and increases quality time.
Chroneering® has developed the world’s first smartwatch that only notifies what is important in order to serve as the first line of defense against information overload, with the ultimate mission to challenge Big Data into accepting a paradigm shift toward digital sustainability.
Through the art of natural language processing, different types of emergencies, hazards, urgent matters, or special requests get highlighted to the user through an analog watch face. This enables the user to take part in revolutionary artificial intelligence to optimize their day-to-day, without compromising on style and self-expression.