Sound of silence: Does Muting Notifications Reduce Phone Use?

Mengqi Liao, S. Shyam Sundar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations

Abstract

Smartphone users often feel disturbed by the constant rings and buzzes coming from their phones. As a solution, many try to silence notifications to avoid distractions. But, will silencing notifications help users feel less distracted or more preoccupied with what they will be missing out? To answer this question, we drew upon the Uses & Gratifications (U&G) approach in the field of communication and conducted a study of objective behavioral data collected from the Screen Time tool of 138 iPhone users. Data suggest that users tend to pick up their phones and check for messages more often when it is in silent mode than when it is on audio-alert or vibrate modes. This tendency is especially true for individuals who have high Fear of Missing Out (FoMO) and Need to Belong (NtB). Silencing notifications for them appears to be more, rather than less, psychologically distressing. Our findings offer new insights into understanding the relationship between notifications and mobile phone usage, especially how the sound and vibration cues of notifications assuage users’ uncertainty and fulfil their informational, social and environmental surveillance gratifications. Results also suggest that many current solutions for mobile phone overuse, like the “Do not disturb” function, may be counter-productive.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number107338
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
Volume134
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • General Psychology

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