Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Phone That Cried Wolf

I need to turn the alerts off on my phone. It's getting ridiculous. Actually, no. It's BEEN ridiculous, but the alerts are pretty much the only way I know what's going on in the world besides the ten minutes here and there of NPR I get to listen to in the car.

We recently took a break from our Directv because we realized we were paying a fortune for our daughter to occasionally watch Nick Jr. and so that we could record a bunch of shows we were always too tired to watch. We watched so little TV that we thought it didn't justify a three digit bill every month and we wanted to try Apple TV, mainly so we could watch Arrested Development and there's no live news on there so all my news now comes from the phone, at least for now. We are leaving for summer vacation in two weeks and we will probably go back to some kind of cable after we get back.

I read a bunch of papers on my phone. I have AP Mobile and USA Today and The New York Times and they all send me push notifications when something newsworthy happens. The notifications appear like a text message accompanied by an urgent sound. A DUN DUH DUN that seems to announce the coming of the Apocalypse.

The problem here is that what the news organizations deem newsworthy, and therefore push-worthy and urgent enough to interrupt me in the middle of whatever I am doing, isn't always what I feel warrants interruption, especially in the middle of the night. Yes, I'm thrilled that Kim Kardashian gave birth five weeks early, but I don't need USA Today waking me up at 3am to let me know the happy news.

Basically, there's nothing newsworthy enough to wake me up over. It can all wait until morning and I can read an article at my convenience. I don't need an urgent text about it unless there's an F5 tornado right on my street and I mean DIRECTLY on my street. A couple blocks over? I'm staying asleep. So unless I'm in imminent danger, I don't need a push notification. Got it?

It's not just the timing. It's the subjects of these notifications that I don't understand. Most of them are pretty mundane, not all that exciting and definitely not worth a DUN DUH DUN!!! LOOK AT YOUR PHONE RIGHT NOW! No, sorry. I can read about whatever the Supreme Court has decided, later. Push news should be reserved for something truly important. Once, and I swear to you I am not making this up, I got a push notification telling me that Zsa Zsa Gabor had had her leg amputated. Really?? I'm sorry that Zsa Zsa lost her limb, but come on. Way bigger things going on in the world than that. Way bigger.

The news cries wolf. I get notifications of Tsunami warnings in Hawaii that end up being two inch ripples. A 1.5 temblor rattles LA. Please.

Here is what has actually been newsworthy lately: all the Boston Marathon stuff, Osama Bin Laden's death, the Japanese Tsunami, an entire Oklahoma town getting blown away by the biggest tornado ever recorded, election results.

Here's what is not a good news notification: that Edith Bunker died. Yes, she was a lovely woman, but I can read an article about her life and death later. I'm sorry, Edith.

And then there's what I call DUH news. My favorite from last summer was "US President Barack Obama chosen as Democrat Candidate for President." Um, well, who else were they going to pick? We know this already.

The problem with all these DUN DUH DUNs coming from my phone is that I have become desensitized to actual, important news. When I got the alert about the Boston bombing, I dismissed it, thinking it would end up being nothing, just another false alarm. But that was actually something. Same with the Moore, Oklahoma tornado last month. I didn't connect with the news alert. I saw it and felt nothing, because I'd gotten so many pointless and not important alerts.

New alerts should be reserved for truly important, big events. That's how it was when I was growing up and the only way we got news was from papers or at six and eleven on TV. If they broke into the regularly scheduled programming with a special news alert, you bet your butt it was something big going down. Ronald Reagan getting shot. The space shuttle exploding with the first teacher in space inside of it. The hostages in Iran coming home. Now they break in for random car chases in LA and who cares about that? And now I get several alerts a day on my phone and I ignore them, even when they're important and that's kind of sad.


Anonymous said...

Have you tried using Twitter? I subscribe to the twitter feed of news orgs. The tweet has a link to the story. You can click if it interests you. Since I subscribe on my laptop not my phone, I don't know about the noise factor, but I find that by picking the news or other org. carefully, I get links to stories or essays I never would have found on my own. Plus breaking news, of course.

jessica fantastica said...

Why don't you turn off the push notifications for those apps?

Steph said...

I stopped watching/reading the news about 6 years ago.

My life and mental well being has improved tremendously now that I am not consuming all the negative, awful news on a daily basis.

The important stuff- like the stories you mentioned, I find out about from my Mom, my friends, and Facebook.

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