The Culture of Interruption

Facebook Sep 07, 2017

You’re finally making some progress on that thing that you owe that person on that date. Maybe you’ve got headphones on with music that helps you focus, or maybe you prefer to work in total silence. You’ve been putting off this particularly complicated part of the thing, but now you’ve got a handle on it.

And then your phone beeps with a text message. Or Facebook message. (Or facebook ‘like’ if you’re masochistic enough to let them notify you of those.) Or Snapchat.

Or you receive a pop-up from that instant messenger app that your team uses.

Or your computer helpfully notifies you of a new email with a little flag up in the corner of the screen, just big enough to break your concentration.

This is what the Internet, breaker-of-chains, mother of communication, queen of all things good, has made us. Punch drunk monkeys pushing buttons and hoping to douse a light and get a peanut.

Keeping up with notifications.

It’s easy to rage at the technology (and Apple’s sad implementation of notifications on both IOS and MacOS does deserve a good drubbing.)

But we asked for this.

Where does Facebook get the idea that they could nag us about enabling notifications every time we opened their messenger app on our phone until we did (or until I deleted the app in my case?)

Why does Amazon think that it’s acceptable to ask me to let them notify me from the IOS Kindle app every third or fourth time I run it?

Where does a website with a name as pathetic as “9 to 5 Mac” Get the idea that I want them to send me alerts on my web browser?

When Pigs Fly

Facebook thinks they are the center of the universe because for many people they are. (They’re getting into the TV business and some people actually think it’s a good idea! They want to get their entertainment from the people who brought you Farmville!)

So what do we do?

Manoush Zomorodi has an idea. Get bored:


“The only people that refer to their customers as users are drug dealers and technologists.”

Where are we going to end up if we don’t change direction? Jean Twenge, a Psychology Professor, calls it a mental health crisis. When I first came across the article I thought it was hyperbole, but after reading it, I am genuinely afraid.

Turn off your notifications. Delete some apps. Sell your attention for a higher price.


Great! You've successfully subscribed.
Great! Next, complete checkout for full access.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.