It seems like our collective attention span is getting shorter and shorter. It also seems like the only thing most people can truly give sustained attention to is their phone.

And let’s face it, our phones are pretty darn amazing. They give us access to an astonishing amount of knowledge about almost any topic imaginable. They can replace our radios, our televisions and movie screens, and our video game consoles. They can help us keep in touch with people all over the world via social media networks. They possess increasingly high-quality cameras. We can use them to handle our banking and pay our bills, to shop for just about anything, and to pay for our daily cup of coffee. We can use them to text one another and—in a pinch—to actually call one another. They are phones after all.

Given all that functionality, it is little wonder that so many of us let our attention be captured by our devices. We might flit from activity to activity on our phones—but we still find ourselves glued to them as we do so. And a whole lot of us manage to pay attention to our phones while we are supposedly doing other things—some more dangerous than others.

It probably goes without saying that there are plenty of downsides to letting our phones command our attention so much of the time. But those downsides can be made even worse when we let our phones notify us each and every time something new happens. We want to encourage you to switch most or all of those notifications off—and to do so, we will highlight three potential problems related to phone use that could undermine your sobriety

Too Much Social Media and News

Updates from social media platforms and news outlets are among the most common notifications folks receive on their phones. It can be exciting to get a notification that people are interacting with your social content, and it can feel like you are being a responsible person by keeping an eye on breaking news.

But your favorite social media channels and news outlets do not necessarily offer up content that supports your mental health or by extension your sobriety. Social media—where folks tend to post a highlight reel of their lives that elides any and all difficulties or unpleasantries—can have a negative impact on your self-esteem. (It can also lead to arguments with people you might not even really know.) Meanwhile, an endless stream of breaking news can contribute to feelings of anxiety, which is not helpful to your efforts to maintain your hard-won sobriety.

The good news is that your social media reactions and the latest news will still be there when you make a conscious decision to spend a few minutes catching up on things. With that in mind, you can switch off your notifications. It might seem weird at first, but we suspect that your stress and anxiety levels will drop sooner than you might think.

Too Much Work Stress

Many people—perhaps including you—have their phones connected to their work email account. As a result, they receive notifications from that email account no matter when someone sends a missive—over the dinner hour, in the middle of the night, over the weekend. And once you know you have an email, it is nearly impossible to resist the urge to see what it is. Once you see what it is, you might feel obligated to respond to it. Suddenly, your workday never really stops. 

This situation can lead to increases in stress and contribute to burnout, threatening your sobriety in the process. It would be better to set your phone (or your email server) such that it does not notify you of each email that arrives. Keeping your work life at work is good for your recovery. 

Too Much Damage to Relationships

Social media, news, and work emails are just a few of the notifications that arrive in a seemingly endless stream on our phones. Maybe you get notifications when your favorite sports teams are playing. Perhaps you get text messages from a variety of retailers who once sold you something and would like to do so again. Maybe you have multiple email addresses, each one pinging you when someone—whether friends, acquaintance, or spammer—sends something your way.

All of these notifications call out (or vibrate) for your attention. When they do, there is a good chance they are stealing your focus from the person or people around you. Maybe you check your phone during dinner with your family. Perhaps you pick the phone up to check notifications while you are hanging out with friends. Maybe you let your attention drift from someone who is sharing something important with you.

Over time, these behaviors will start to damage your relationships. That’s bad in a whole array of ways—including that it can chip away at some of your sobriety’s foundational support. Turning off a slew of notifications can be an improvement.

Here is an Important Notice Concerning the Path to Sobriety

The Aviary Recovery Center, near St. Louis, Missouri, can help you get—and stay—sober.