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The 11 Worst Kinds of Smartphone Notifications on Earth

·Technology Editor
Man with pained expression looking at a smartphone
Man with pained expression looking at a smartphone

Me, whenever I pull my phone out of my pocket because it is buzzing and I see that it is a horrible smartphone notification. (Thinkstock)

At its heart, the smartphone notification is meant to give you a real-time snippet of recent information from a service without your having to open up that app. A preview of a new text message is a logical, beneficial notification. So too is a notification for a new post on your Facebook timeline, or an alert for an upcoming event in your calendar.

Some notifications, however, are not so useful or beneficial. In fact, they miss the mark of being useful or beneficial so far that they are annoying, pointless, and even infuriating in their mere existence.

All of these notifications can be turned off by visiting the Settings section of their respective apps, but frankly these app makers should have known better than to send us them in the first place.

These are the worst push notifications in the world. We wish we could swipe them all away, right off the planet Earth.

1. Facebook reminding you of upcoming birthdays.
Occasionally, Facebook will pop forth onto my smartphone to say that “Four of your friends have birthdays today.” It does not matter how important those people are to me; what is important is that I know they have birthdays. Maybe I want to write on their timelines. Maybe I want to buy them a virtual sticker. Maybe I want to check in on my college roommate’s ex-girlfriend’s brother and congratulate him on making it another year without dying. It’s his birthday, after all!

Look: I do not need to be prodded with the information that my friend from middle school, my second cousin, my high school Spanish teacher, and a former co-worker’s bail bondsman were all birthed on a certain day. Thanks for the reminder on the front of my phone screen, though, Facebook!

Facebook birthday notification
Facebook birthday notification

Bonus: After the birthdays happen, the notification STILL sticks around, as a memento, or something.

Facebook birthday notification
Facebook birthday notification

2. Twitter letting you know what two “friends” are talking about RIGHT NOW.

Twitter notification
Twitter notification


OK, cool. Maybe they could talk about it in private?

3. WiFi in range! Connect to this random stranger’s home network if you can figure out the password!
Android phones pop up a notification telling you that you are nearby a WiFi network whenever you aren’t connected to one — regardless of where you are or whether the WiFi network is password protected.

“What?” you shriek, looking at your phone. “There’s WiFi nearby?!? Heavens to Betsy, I should connect to that!”

4. Google+ Auto Backup __ photos ready to share!

Google+ Notification
Google+ Notification

Another Android annoyance: Whenever you take photos with the camera, two minutes later you’ll get a wishful, pleading notification telling you that those photos are ready to be uploaded to Google+.

I’ll bet they are, Google. I’ll bet they are.

5. “Breaking” news notifications for insignificant or irrelevant world or local events.

Smartphone news notification
Smartphone news notification

(via Jklag7)

A declaration of war is a push notification-worthy event. The election of a national politician is a push notification-worthy event. Some drunk idiot in Ohio getting a temporary tattoo is not.

See also this nonsense:

CNN News notification
CNN News notification

6. Sports score updates for games you’ve DVRed.
It’s fine; my Braves probably lost anyway.

SportsCenter notification about Olympics news
SportsCenter notification about Olympics news

7. Facebook friends asking you to play Candy Crush, FarmVille, Zoo Mafia, Penguin Wars, and the like.

Games request
Games request

Advice for Facebook: Instead of asking me if I want to respond to a request to play Snowman City or Bubble Saga or Jungle Buddies, or whatever, just go ahead and unfriend whomever sent me the request. Cut out the middleman!

8. “Your friend has joined you on Venmo.”
A fun thing to do whenever you get this notification — which is essentially the information that a Facebook friend downloaded an app that you have also downloaded — is to immediately open up Venmo and charge that person $100, with the memo line You know what you did.”

The longer it’s been since you’ve talked to this acquaintance, the better.

9. “You haven’t played [INSERT GAME HERE] in 6 days! We miss you! Come back!”

10. “There’s a sale on Candy Coins for the next 24 hours! Half off all Candy Coins!”
Notify me when there’s a sale on a commodity with actual value.

11. Recommendations for things you hate.

iHeart Radio notification recommending Vanilla Ice
iHeart Radio notification recommending Vanilla Ice

You know the type: notifications of upcoming concerts for bands you loathe, reminders to tune into a TV show when you don’t even have cable, alerts that a new movie you would never watch is now in theaters.

It’s bad enough that the recommendation was so far off. And now you’re pushing it to the front of my phone?

Here’s a recommendation, and this goes for any app that has pushed out one of these awful notifications: Can you not?

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