Don’t let them rule!

Photo of devices
Designed to distract. Photo: Marvin Meyer, Unsplash


By computer guy Matt Bentley

Your phones, tablets, and now, your desktop computers and laptops, are designed to distract.

How? Via pop-ups, notifications, news, new features and general interface design.

The most obvious are the notifications on your phone. By default, if you have a news app installed like “”, it will (provided your phone is connected to the internet) ping you every so often with new articles it thinks you might enjoy.

Although that’s a naive way of putting it. It’ll ping you with articles it thinks you will engage with. That is to say, the more sensational the article, the more likely you are to view it, and the more likely it is that you’ll see advertising, and then the stuff website gets paid by the advertiser. That’s the way it’s always worked with news. But the danger nowadays is that these apps, websites and advertising channels can connect with us 24/7. Which is kinda unhealthy.

Given the tendency toward sensationalism, and the fact that your fight-or-flight response gets engaged by articles which traumatise or enrage us, we basically give these companies permission to hijack our nervous systems and make us uncomfortable, unhappy and angry 24/7. Not a great way to be! So I’m going to show you some ways to take back control of your phone/tablet/computer, and your nervous system.

The first way is disabling notifications. All modern phones/tablets and computer operating systems like Windows or Android allow you to disable notifications for individual apps in your settings. The location of these settings differ from device to device, so you’ll have to take a look for yourself, but generally if you search for ‘notifications’ under ‘Settings’ you should find it. Turning them off also means the app won’t run in the background, which slows your device down.

A second way is to disconnect from the internet. For a desktop or laptop computer this may not be appropriate or useful, but for tablets and smartphones it actually makes sense, as cell data & wifi use the most power out of everything on your phone, beside the screen. Turning these off not only disables notifications temporarily, it will also make your phone/tablet battery last longer, and also disables a certain amount of tracking or telemetry from that device about your activities and location.

The third way is of course, to get rid of those apps. Do you really need the ‘stuff’ app? Is the occasional interesting, thought-provoking article worth the screeds of target-marketed drivel that come out of that site? Go through your apps, delete what you don’t need and free up some space, and in the process free yourself up. Nobody likes a cranky person, but winding people up is what so much of the internet is about. It’s designed to make you unhappy.

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Number 8 Network - a community website for the rural areas northeast of Hamilton, NZ, is run by Gordonton journalist/editor Annette Taylor.

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