It is not uncommon for one to have over a hundred notifications these days, as applications prefer to call them, but what really should define a notification? As much as our techniques for sending information have grown both in speed and in the means available to send them, is the information sent worth the energy input in developing the techniques?

That might sound pessimistic on the surface, but let us explore it from our own experience -- at least to manifest the subjective feel of the whole idea. Would you read all the 110 notifications from the messaging app of your choice? I doubt -- unless you are somewhere you can grant that kind of attention and even more, considering there might be another 110 more once you are done scrolling the current list, you might just end up ignoring them.

A few years ago, one would not have that kind of thing displayed on their cell phone screen. One would be excited to know his or her friends and family care about him or her with just 10 messages. What would you have done with 110 messages that time? Or maybe, all 101 were important because they were not referred to under an umbrella term -- like ‘notifications’ but directly as ‘messages.'

Is it a matter of convenience?

We could, however, grant the fact that applications have made messaging convenient. But is it the case that this convenience has led to a new kind of boredom, a kind of craving, a kind of attention we never desired before? How did it come to be so ubiquitous yet interesting and necessary for us to have this kind of bulk at the top of our notifications bar?

Is all information that urgent, now that it is ubiquitous, now that we have the means to mine and transport it? It is; of course, but up to what point? And who are the carriers of most of the information we consider urgent?

Friends, family, and acquaintances

Most of the information mined these days is not in the jurisdiction of a few people, or institutions for that matter.

That new shoe in the market will least likely come from a direct visit to your shopping site but from a friend. Or maybe you might know what to eat not from your healthy mail subscription but from another friend. It may even be your dad sending you the latest of Donald Trump theatrics or your cousin yapping about that slain model in Pakistan.

This group, which we associate with the most, makes up most of the 101 notifications, perhaps because we are social beings, we might rationalize -- but also perhaps because we are afflicted with ‘The Message Syndrome’-- a syndrome I would ascribe to the evolution of what a message is intended to be, and what a notification should be.

The Message Syndrome

As earlier observed, a message meant necessary information, perhaps even urgent -- in the latent periods of cell communication. Most cell phone users of earlier times experienced this, and would associate messaging with ‘crucial information’. Now, however, it does not hurt to miss the 101 notifications -- or to ignore them, hoping to catch up another day (and often times we catch up even without going through the notifications, surprisingly).

What does this indicate? Were the notifications really worthy of the tag ‘message’?

The effect of ubiquity has already begun imprinting its cons. We are losing our ability to discriminate between a ‘message’ and a ‘notification’-- to the point of interchanging them at will. If one leaves you a message, there should be a gap created if the message is not received. A notification, on the other hand, should not declare its urgency on the top bar -- and one should be able to catch up at any other time.

The Message Syndrome highlights that -- the failure of both people and applications to discriminate between pieces of information -- their relevance and urgency. While a message is a notification, not all notifications are messages -- a misnomer which engenders conflict, in the psyche and response of the receiver.

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