Living for Notifications

November 9, 2013

My phone is the first thing I grab when I wake up and the last thing I put down before going to bed. That is a problem.

I love notifications. They are instant validation. It’s easier to check Facebook or Twitter than it is to solicit feedback or invite actual human interaction.

Another like, favorite, retweet or comment.
Someone else used my referral link!
A free set of razor blades or a book or extra space in Dropbox.


They are cheap substitutes for actual interaction. And I’m practically addicted to them.

I have a few theories on why.

1. It’s instant gratification.

I look, I see, I receive whatever I was looking for (or go away despairing because someone hasn’t interacted with my latest post, so now I need to scurry and create another one that begs for the attention of others). It’s why lust is more appealing than love to our sinful hearts–lust gets, but love gives. A notification is a quick-fix, and it’s a dangerous trap that can quickly lead to other sin.

2. I love approval.

I’m especially prone to seeking the approval of others. I like to be liked. Paul has a pretty serious warning about that, and I’m trying to grow in heeding it. It’s a dangerous thing to enjoy the approval of others, because it can quickly lead to the devastating lifestyle of living for the approval of others.

3. I’m uncomfortable with silence.

Not even when I’m by myself. I have to be constantly busy and occupied (because it’s a modern-day status symbol, and if we can be entertained why not be entertained?) Saying this stems from a constant desire to be productive is a bad argument, because silence is a huge opportunity to think, relax, reflect and grow.

4. I thrive on competition.

I love out doing myself and honestly, I still struggle with trying to outdo others. I’m asking the Lord to work on my heart in this area, because it’s a nasty issue that has plagued me for what seems like forever. Comparison is a snare.

5. It’s more likely to be approval than rejection.

There is no dislike button. Sure, people could comment on your “I got promoted!” post and tell you that you didn’t deserve it, but they probably won’t bother. But you’ll definitely attract a lot of likes.

How do we overcome this? How do we step out of a world of instant gratification and into real relationships that are more important than our well-crafted, instantly gratifying digital identities?

1. Turn to Jesus.

Find your identity and satisfaction in him. Know that he won the race on your behalf, that you have God’s full approval through your faith in Christ and that no one can ever take that away from you.

2. Seek to be present.

Enjoy the lulls and the quiet moments. Turn off your phone. Leave it at home. Shut off notifications and beeps and bells. Focus on real-life relationships because social media will always be there, but the people we love won’t always be with us.

3. Quit comparing.

I love this tweet from Kevin DeYoung.

He’s not going to ask you how many likes you had on Facebook or Instagram, or that he really loved that one tweet you sent out. Stop focusing on things that don’t matter, and definitely don’t compare your social status in the online world to others. You won’t be satisfied, and you’ll be in a constant trap of pride and despair.

4. Be comfortable in silence.

Use that silence to pray. To think. To reflect. Embrace life, and stop trying to stay so preoccupied that you don’t face reality.

5. Stop believing that likes lead to satisfaction.

No amount of approval from friends or online strangers will fill the holes in your heart. You’ll reap a harvest of dissatisfaction when amazing tweets go unnoticed and no one likes your statuses. Don’t set yourself up for failure–reject the lies that another red bubble with a ever increasing number in it will bring you joy that only Jesus can offer.

I don’t have this figured out. It’s still something I’m working through. I’d love to hear how you’ve overcome or avoided the trap of finding your identity in the online approval of others.

Question: How have you overcome the trap of online approval and the constant checking for notifications?

Jordan Shirkman

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I'm passionate about helping people discover tools and wrestle with ideas that will enable them to live lives that will outlast their days.

2 responses to Living for Notifications

  1. I really enjoy your site, and I also enjoy your take to your blog. It’s really enlightening, personal, and a modern approach. But, isn’t it so true that we first go to the media “update” before anything else? Good write, man. Keep it up.