Show Me Your Badge

Last week I turned off email notifications.  Across devices — phone, tablet, laptop — no beeps, swooshes, dings, banners…or badges.  Until recently I was unfamiliar with the technical term for that unholy red bubble offering an instant quantification of my self-worth.  2,158 unanswered emails, irredeemable personal failure;  517 unanswered emails, on your way to human decency;  10 unanswered emails, I am a golden god of productivity.


Unfortunately, the badge concept has jumped the email hurdle and is now a standard feature across application platforms.  Want to know how many unread Twitter posts you have?  How about unfinished projects or reminders in your to-do app of choice?  Did you make the terrible mistake of leaving LinkedIn endorsements unreviewed?  Or, my personal favorite, did you forget to install this week’s Dropbox update?!

Why have we allowed the badge, and other notification settings, to infiltrate our mobile experience?  Are these settings offering a method of improving our productivity and efficiency as they would inherently suggest?  Or have the companies that dominate our mobile lives introduced a potent bait that snares our flittering attention as we scramble from one daily task to another?

John Lasseter famously stated, “Art challenges technology, and technology inspires art.”  As it relates to the ubiquity of mobile applications, one could venture the following: “Action challenges technology, and technology inspires action.”  The applications we use on a daily basis (email and otherwise) were certainly designed in response to our demand, to our human actions…but I wonder if that remains true.  Have mobile applications continued to respond to the challenges and demands we, as users, present?  Or has technology taken the lead in inspiring action, primarily by pointing out any lapse of it?

Do yourself a favor, turn off the badge.  There will be a new Dropbox update next week.
Show Me Your Badge

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