The Notification Spiral

All notifications are not created equal.

We now live in the notification era. Instead of us having to actively seek out information, communication, and interaction, the technology we have at our fingertips has become such that these things actually seek us out.

Our phones, tablets, and computers ding, buzz, and light up all day and all night letting us know that someone is trying to tell us something, that someone is saying something to us or about us, and that someone, somewhere, is paying attention to us.

This triggers not only our curiosity, but also our vanity. It makes us feel special. It makes us feel seen, heard, and appreciated. Attention, recognition, and adoration, we tell ourselves, are only a click, a swipe, a fingerprint, or facial scan away.

We post, we comment, and we share, and each time we do, the anticipation builds. We begin to wonder whether or not people will notice and appreciate our posts, our ideas, our photos, videos, and memes. We become self-conscious, nervous, and frightened. What if they do not?

We wait. We check. We wait. We check again. Finally, it happens and we get the alert telling us that someone was paying attention, someone noticed us, and someone connected in some way with the part of ourselves that we put into the world.

We start to realize that certain posts, shares, and comments get us more attention than others, not good, healthy, or positive attention, per se, but some kind of attention. This begins to change the way we think and the way we present ourselves to the world.

Deep down, we are afraid of being alone and unloved, and it feels good to be noticed, even if for the worst parts of ourselves. Instead of being better, instead of making positive change, and instead of adding value to the world, we become, create, and contribute that which gets noticed, for better or worse.

It is up to us to break the cycle and to do something that matters, not something that is merely noticed.


Holistic Budo: As it is in budo, so too it is in life. As it is in life, so too it is in budo.

Robert Van Valkenburgh is co-founder of Taikyoku Mind & Body and Kogen Dojo where he teaches Taikyoku Budo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

All photos by Robert Van Valkenburgh unless otherwise noted.

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