Notifications & Alerts

Paul Ford on 2015-03-07

I realized that my digital life was getting too complex, so I turned off chat. Then I removed myself from a bunch of Slacks. I filtered a number of mailing lists into automated folders, muted some conversations in Gmail, and switched from Gmail to mutt to do some basic inbox management. I unsubscribed from some Dropbox folders, and altered Flux to darken my screen at more appropriate times. I unsubscribed from Twitter’s automatic emails, erased some spare Twitter accounts, and unfollowed or muted some people and organizations. I organized my passwords a little and unsubscribed from some Box folders. I turned off Bluetooth and location mode on my phone. I erased all the songs in my Spotify playlist and erased a few hundred old tweets, with the idea that I will erase all of them.

For the remaining Slacks, I turned off Slack desktop notifications. Anything that integrated with my calendar I dis-integrated, and anything that I didn’t use that authorized via my Twitter account I dis-authorized. I turned off the services that help me organize my calendar and the services that help me manage my inbox. I turned off things that notify me when particular Google spreadsheets are updated. I erased most of my TODO list since I really only need to stay alive and listen to people and everything else is a lie. I closed the IRC and chat windows that were bothering me.

Then I unfollowed a number of Github projects, erased some Tinyletter accounts, and tried but failed to find a way to keep random people from trying to call me with Facetime. I removed Skype from the Dock. I went into Facebook and unliked some deaths, closed my torrenting app, and opened my /etc/hosts file and blocked Reddit, Y Combinator, Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter, as well as Mlkshk. Actually I let myself keep Mlkshk because it doesn’t do harm.

I cut the Times down to one day a week (may unsubscribe). Let Wired, Esquire, New Yorker, and New York lapse. I erased the fitness network and lifestyle tracking tools.

I cancelled my account for my automated billing system, unsubscribed from text notifications from New York City, especially silver alerts, which describe old people out wandering, and unsubscribed from weather emails. I tried to figure out how to stop my phone from giving me the weather, film times, and restaurant suggestions unsolicited. I failed at that. I unsubscribed from all mailing lists that claimed to discuss the future of anything, because the only honest discussions are about the past. I made a list of people with whom to have coffee and wistfully threw it into the garbage and poured water on top of it and watched the ink smear.

I put both printers into the closet along with a number of hard drives, DVDs, and cables. I turned off the netbook in the closet, and the Raspberry Pi, and turned off the old computer that was supposed to be a server but never got there. I tried but could not remove Google Plus app from phone, and then thought I’d block Google Plus in /etc/hosts, too, and realized it didn’t matter too much.

I unsubscribed from all non-billing Google emails and from all MeetUp notifications and filtered Medium reply notification emails into a folder, then unsubscribed from LinkedIn notifications and set LinkedIn to stop sending me emails when someone messages me, and did the same sort of thing with Facebook email. I then cancelled emails from credit card companies announcing events that might interest me. I unsubscribed also from emails from and Google Calendar.

I removed WhatsApp and from my phone, and also Snapchat and Whisper, and put the Fitbit in a box and removed the Fitbit app. I erased Flappy Bird from my phone, along with a number of book-reading apps and the app that lets me control my router, and a number of games with in-app purchases, as well as the IRC phone app. I removed Earth, Game Dev Story, IF, iPrint&Scan, Keep, Lantern (moved off of Campfire), MTA UPS&Downs, myAT&T, MyFitnessPal (never used), One Medical (no longer supported by my health insurer), Optimum (cancelled the TV part of cable so no use), Playboard (don’t need more apps), Softcard (wouldn’t erase, but such is life), SpaceChem (never played), Spotlight (who knows), Tumblr (all whining or porn), Twisty (I don’t play interactive fiction any more), Uber (prefer the bus), Visual Voicemail (wouldn’t erase either), and Yahoo! Weather (remember when everyone was like, Yahoo’s BACK, they made little windmills). Erased movies from movie folder. Turned off Twitter phone notifications. Turned off voice mail. Cancelled the Google Voice line. Got rid of the alternative mapping tools for cities and the transit notification apps, and the NYTimes app. Got rid of the Usenet account and newsreaders. Uninstalled Instagram. Erased Seamless and Soundcloud.

I stepped back and took a look and thought: I’m maybe a quarter of the way there? This is just the top-level annoying stuff that is always popping up and making clicky noises.

As I was writing this this morning, I kept wanting to turn it into a more surreal piece — unsubscribing from the heartbeats of strangers, muting imaginary restaurant brands — but I couldn’t get past the reality. Which felt unusual.

Next I need to erase all of my tweets.