My Mac, iPhone, and iPad are loaded with applications, and many of them bark out notifications throughout the day.
I don’t care.
There once was a time when I jumped to my Mac’s keyboard and screen whenever I heard the email notification from the Mail app. Remember “You’ve got mail.”
Those days are gone and replaced by at least two, maybe three dozen different alerts and notifications; so many that I don’t remember them all.
Rachel Kraus on what has happened to notifications:
As devices, software applications, and apps become omnipresent, the User Interface (UI) sounds they emit — the pings, bings, and blongs vying for our attention — have also started to contribute to the sonic fabric of our lives.
I hear you. The ones I remember the most are the notification sounds I assigned to specific Contacts. My husband has one for Messages. My mom, too. And, my boss. Each sound is different, and each either fills me with intrigue and excitement, or weakens my stomach.
The rest of the alert and notification sounds from Mac, iPhone, and iPad are not so easily categorized and identifiable. I remember Mail’s incoming email sound. Messages, too– for the general populace, so I know when I’m getting email and when I received a text message, but that’s about it.
Alert and notification sounds on iPhone do not match those on Watch, and it’s Watch which does the deed to tell me something is up and I need to pay attention.
Most of the time I don’t. It’s just noise.
For the last 30 years, scientists have been using animals, like mice, to learn how sound becomes associated with a memory, thought, feeling, or state of being. They’ve discovered that your brain creates pathways connecting the parts that process sound with the parts linked to emotions and memories.
Hence, the sound I use for an alert from my boss is different than the one I use for my husband or mom. I need to identify which notifications are important and the easy way to do that is by distinct sounds– iOS allows that for many apps, and most Contacts– but after about five or six I can’t remember which sound is assigned to which app or which person.
It’s all just noise.
The sounds themselves don’t create the emotions – the associations do. But the often repeated nature of UI sounds, and the social context in which they’re used, makes them ripe for emotional connections.
Therein lies the problem. For a notification sound to be used appropriately as being identified, we need to remember the association.
That ain’t easy, folks. We live in an era that can be described as notification hell— too many sounds that cannot be identified. Notification sounds are like emoji. Who the hell knows what all those smiley faces mean? Likewise, a bleep, or burp, or gong, or xylophone sounds has an association, but what good is it if you can’t remember what it’s associated to?