When you wake up, it’s normal to check your phone notifications before getting out of bed.
But looking at your phone immediately can hijack your morning routine, writes Tristan Harris, Google’s former Design Ethicist, on Medium.
For the past three years, Harris has studied how technology exploits our minds’ weaknesses in order to keep us signing back on. He compares tech designers to magicians, suggesting that they look for “blind spots, edges, vulnerabilities, and limits of people’s perception, so they can influence what people do without them even realising it.”
When you give tech this power, it controls your experiences in more ways than you realise, he says. For one, it fuels FOMO.
“When we wake up in the morning and turn our phone over to see a list of notifications,” he writes, “it frames the experience of ‘waking up in the morning’ around a menu of ‘all the things I’ve missed since yesterday.'”
Other research suggests that getting constant notifications can trigger stress. For example, in a survey of nearly 2,000 workers in the UK, the London-based Future Work Center found that email notifications are linked to higher feelings of anxiety.
In another analysis at the University of British Columbia, researchers asked 124 students and professors to check their email frequently for one week. The next week, they only checked their email three times per day and disabled all notifications. When time spent looking at email was restricted, the participants reported lower stress levels and higher feelings of positivity.
And as Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh notes, when we feel stressed, we’re either ruminating on the past or worrying about the future. That’s certainly true when you look at the laundry list of notifications on your phone — it makes you think about the things you need to do that day, rather than fully enjoying the morning.
Harris suggests that instead of checking your phone first thing, you should consider another activity that’s more aligned with your true needs. For me, that would be brewing a cup of coffee.
Those text and email replies can wait.