No, it’s not the cell phone specifically.
The most overrated pleasure is the notification (in all forms).
You see how it happened, don’t you?
- The notification told us about human interaction:
- Ring! — “Oh, someone is calling. That’s probably important.”
- Ding Dong! — “Look, another human being at my door!”
- Bing! — “An email from my best friend Sally!”
The early notification said:
“You are significant. I love you.”
- The notification is hijacked but our behavior does not change
- Bing! — “Ooh, there’s a sale on jeans!”
- Bing! — “Let me just get this message.”
- Bing! — “Well, I was going to sleep but just got a text from my boss.”
The new notification says:
“You are significant. Now pay attention to me.”
- The notification is in our pockets 24/7
- Bing! — “Sorry Mom, there’s a comment on my YouTube video.”
- Bing! — “Lol Twitter.”
- Bing! — “Hold on, it looks like a politician/celebrity did/said something stupid/hilarious.”
The modern notification says:
“You are significant, but only in this reality. Come backto me.”
The notification phenomena is so common we don’t even consider it a pleasure, just a part of life. We trade away flow in our work and conversations for a string of tiny dopamine hits.
I don’t talk about notifications because I am above them. I talk about notifications because I was a slave once. The little red circles demanded my attention and I submitted. I substituted real emotion for a cheap high. I surrendered self-love for a few pixels forming a number.
When they made a big one, I was happy.
When I didn’t, I was sad.
You are probably stronger than me. You can probably handle it.
At least, I hope you can.