The other day, I couldn't take it anymore. After what seemed like the 5,281st notification that someone I follow on Instagram has posted for the first time in a while, or that a bunch of people I follow all follow this profile so I should stop what I'm doing and go follow it also, I had to make it stop.
Really, for me, there were two problems. First, I really don't like notifications for anything unless I ask for them. If my wife or daughter sends me a text message, I want to be notified. If I get a direct message on Slack from a colleague, I probably should look at it at some point.
As for Instagram, unless I get tagged in a photo or someone mentions me, I don't care at all. I don't need push notifications for someone starting a Live video or someone posting a Story for the first time.
Those are just two of the 25 different types of push notifications that Instagram sends (I counted), all of which are "on" by default. Which is the second problem.
There are more than 2 dozen push notifications, grouped into seven categories, and every single one of them is turned on by default. If you want to turn them off, you have to tap through every category and turn them off one at a time.
Of course, if you have a business account, there's an option to "turn on message notifications only." For everyone else, you can "pause" notifications, but that only works for a short period of time. You can also turn off notifications in your iPhone settings, but what if you actually do want a notification when someone tags you in a photo or mentions you in a comment.
Facebook, which owns Instagram, could fix this problem. It could just make all notifications off by default. Of course, if it did, most people would never turn on any of them. That's the power of the default--most people never take the time to change whatever has been set as the default option.
Also, if Facebook thinks I might be interested in something recent that someone I know posted, there's an easy solution for that--just show me posts in chronological order. Of course, Facebook isn't going to do that either.
At the least, Facebook could allow you to turn off notifications by group. The fact that it has decided to force notifications on you by default, tells you everything you need to know about what the company really cares about.
Facebook desperately wants you to spend as much time as possible using its apps. The more time you spend using Instagram or Facebook, the more the company is able to collect data about you and show you personalized ads. The more posts you interact with, the more information it has to use its algorithm to try and keep you engaged
On the other hand, when you aren't using Facebook or Instagram, the company sends you push notifications to be sure you remember that it's there. That's not because you might miss something happening on social media. It's really okay--and completely normal--to just live in the real world and not mindlessly scroll through a timeline of content Facebook thinks you want to see.
Sure, it's nice to be able to see photos of your friends or see what's happening, but it's not essential. There are other ways to see what your friends are up to that don't involve feeding Facebook's profit machine. In fact, your life might even be better if you spent less time on Facebook or Instagram. It just wouldn't be better for Facebook.
And so, over time, Facebook has intentionally made the experience worse for its users--knowing that most of them will never change the default setting--because it's better for Facebook. It creates more engagement, which makes Facebook more money.
Just this week, I wrote about how Amazon's refusal to fix the problem of fake reviews on its site sends a message that it doesn't really care about its customers. Facebook, by refusing to fix notifications in Instagram is sending the same message.
There's a lesson here that the choice you make about the default option for your customers is powerful. Most of them will simply go with the default, whether it's best for them or not, so choose carefully. On the other hand, it's also a lesson about valuing your customers. If you make choices that are good for your company, at the expense of your customers, you're doing it wrong.
It doesn't take much to see what really matters to Facebook.