Ever had a neighbour or an acquaintance who is a gossiper and likes to cause tension and conflict among people? I am sure all of us can find one of those people around us. They usually come disguised as a friend. They approach you as if they are trying to help you by telling you what someone somewhere said about you behind your back. They are presenting themselves as your allay, your guardian angel.
But, this, of course, is just an illusion. What they really want is conflict and restlessness. They feed off other people’s fears and insecurities. Whenever I think of them, I think of this song by Susan and Terry Jacks.
But, what does Facebook have to do with your evil gossiping neighbor? In my view, a lot. Facebook notifications are like that psychopath manipulative neighbour gossiper who follows you around with: “Hey, those people who you talked to a few days ago, they said something about you behind your back. Do you want me to tell you what they said?”
Even if you don’t want to know what someone said about you, it requires mental effort to make the decision not to read what they said. And then, if you read, it requires mental effort to decide not to respond. Imagine making tens of such efforts in a day. That can become quite tiring. Most of us don’t actually make that effort, but we check each and every notification. We read all the responses to our comments. We check each reaction to our comments in other discussions. We are made aware of every snarky remark or insult someone made about us. This too can be tiring and damaging.This is why I stopped checking my notifications. It has been about a month now since I last clicked that little globe in the top corner of my Facebook ribbon, and it feels great.
This might sound a bit extreme. Why would you avoid all notifications? Some might be benign or even nice or encouraging. This is true, and while you might for a brief moment enjoy seeing that positive feedback, if it is really important to those people who want to give you this feedback that you actually receive it, they can contact you directly in your inbox or on your wall. You don’t need your gossiper neighbour to tell you that someone said something nice about you in your absence. This applies to negative feedback as well. If someone really feels strongly about some comment you left in a discussion last week, they can always contact you directly.
Avoiding Facebook notifications can act as a filter, a screening tool. Having to contact someone directly is usually more costly in terms of time and effort. Thus, only those who think the benefits of contacting you directly outweigh the costs will contact you. This way, you will increase the likelihood of talking to people who actually think they will benefit from talking to you in a serious and committed manner. You will also reduce the likelihood of having to deal with trolls or people who don’t think through their claims before they post.
A decision to not check notifications does not mean that you will never respond to other people’s comments in some discussion. It simply means that this discussion needs to be important enough to you and that you know on whose wall you can find it again, so you can go back and check the discussion. This way, you are filtering out those discussions, topics, and people who are not important to you and you are focusing on the important ones.
Thus, not checking Facebook notifications can serve as a filtering tool in two directions. First, it would tend to put you in contact with people who sincerely care about you and your views. On the other hand, it would put you in contact with people for whom you have a deeper respect and who you take seriously. Some golden rules of communication from the real world still apply in the digital world, and this is one of them–you don’t have to throw a stone at every dog that barks at you. In fact, you don’t even need to be aware of the barking most of the time.