Your Dinging, Buzzing, Vibrating Phone Is Stressing You Out — And So Is Its Silence

By Sammy Caiola
The Sacramento Bee

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) One way to alleviate the stress of never-ending phone calls is to prioritize alerts into categories. Your coworkers, for example, could have a different ringtone than your friends. Phones also have options to silence certain contacts or to mute chat conversations temporarily.

The Sacramento Bee

Doug Ross, 31, wakes every morning to a screen full of notifications.

He receives updates from news apps, chats from coworkers and emails from East Coast clients, all beckoning to be answered before the workday even starts. Working during the day as a consultant for the software company Adobe, the alerts pour in on a near-constant basis. He usually answers within seconds.

“I never have it away from my person,” said Ross, a Sacramento, Calif., resident, about his phone. “That gives me anxiety. It bothers me, because I know what is going to be on the phone when I get back to it, or what I’m going to miss.”

Many people find the constant dings, rings, buzzes and beeps that come from their computers and cell phones impossible to ignore. Experts say it’s a sign of our dependency on technology, which validates and entertains us while also cutting into our productivity and altering our attention span for the worse.

When a cellphone, laptop computer or smartwatch makes a noise, it produces mental and physical reactions in people, said Larry Rosen, a psychology professor emeritus at California State University, Dominguez Hills, and author of “The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World.” Their heart rates increase. Their skin tingles. They grow increasingly antsy with every minute they don’t look at the screen.

“We’ve trained ourselves, almost like Pavlov’s dogs, to figuratively salivate over what that vibration might mean,” Rosen said. “If you don’t address the vibrating phone or the beeping text, the signals in your brain that cause anxiety are going to continue to dominate, and you’re going to continue feeling uncomfortable until you take care of them.”

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