Your smartphone could be to blame for your bad mood
Getting frustrated with my iPhone is becoming a regular occurrence, and it’s not because it’s a bad phone or that the battery life plummets like a rock (although it certainly doesn’t help). It turns out that I’m not alone: a new paper from Nottingham Trent University suggests that a third of notifications could be negatively impacting our moods.
The researchers investigated the effect that mobile notifications had on mood. The study involved 50 participants receiving thousands of alerts over a five-week period. Out of more than half a million notifications, 32% resulted in negative emotions which triggered users to feel hostile, upset, nervous, afraid or ashamed.
To measure this, researchers created an app called NotiMind. The app collected data relating to the phone’s notifications as well as the participants’ self-reported moods at various points during the day.
Unsurprisingly, the researchers found that work-related notifications – especially those arriving in bulk – had a negative effect on mood. But more worryingly, notifications related to non-human activity like general phone updates or WiFi availability seemed to have the strongest and worst impact on the mood of users, suggesting that the phones themselves might actually be mildly detrimental to our wellbeing.
But it wasn’t all bad news: participants seemed to respond positively to receiving messages from friends – especially those in bulk which created a sense of belonging to a social group.
“These digital alerts continuously disrupt our activities through instant calls for attention,” says study author Dr Eiman Kanjo. “While notifications enhance the convenience of our life, we need to better understand the impact their obsessive use has on our well-being.”
“People often respond quickly, if not immediately to notifications, making them particularly disruptive. Our findings could open the door to a wide range of applications in relation to emotion awareness on social and mobile communication,” Dr Daria Kuss, a psychologist in Nottingham Trent University’s International Gaming Research Unit adds.
Interestingly, the team notes that it’s possible to predict users’ moods based on what notification-based information they are receiving. In the future, this information could be used to personalise system notifications so that fewer were sent when someone was feeling low or increasing the amount of entertainment-based notifications to boost the user’s mood.
A simpler solution might be to turn notifications off – at least until you’re in a happier place.
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