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Dont Let App Notifications Add to Your Election Night Anxiety

It’s Election Day, a day otherwise known as digital Hell. Your poor device will be under constant assault by every newsy app that can send a notification today. Some of you will embrace this, despite the fact that the burning wreckage of trash-filled cars we’re calling the 2020 election is more hyper-politicized than ever. Still, you can avoid being badgered by notifications throughout the day while still staying informed of the key updates you need to know about. Maybe.

Find a sanity buddy and set up a secret app with them

Were I you, I would just put my phone on do-not-disturb mode around 6 p.m. ET—when the polls begin closing—but really, probably about an hour or two beforehand. Or maybe just the whole day. It’s advice my colleague Beth already covered, and she hit the nail on the head:

“At the very least, you need to turn off your notifications. If you disregard all my advice, the absolute bare minimum, must do is to set your phone to Do Not Disturb at whatever ungodly hour you finally turn in.”

I will go one step more and say that you should tap someone more tuned-in to be your your personal filter for the evening. Whitelist them on your phone if they call or text; or, better yet, agree to use one messaging app—perhaps something you rarely use—to stay in touch. That way, when you peek at your phone (yes, you’ll peek), you can simply look to see if you have any new messages from that one person on that one specific app. That’s where you’ll get your major news. And instruct them specifically about what kind of “major election night news” is worth sharing with you.

You’re basically setting up an “accountabilibuddy,” a special someone will be your eyes and ears so you aren’t overwhelmed with 80 notifications every time a website, news channel, pundit, or political enthusiast makes a meaningless prediction today.

Trim, but don’t turn off, your notifications

If you don’t want to fully disconnect from the outside world, I strongly recommend going through your settings and building a firewall so ypu aren’t bothered by everything at once. Here’s how that works:

On iOS, consider setting up Screen Time’s “Downtime” feature to run the entire day—or at least during the prime-time hours of election madness. Then, use “App Limits” to block the entire “Information & Reading” category (and possibly “Social,” too). This will ensure you can’t access any of your news apps by default, and none of their notifications will pop up on your device.

From there, pick one news app you care about and add it to your “Always Allowed” list so you’ll be able to access it and receive its notifications. (We recommend The Guardian’s app, but you’re free to pick whatever you prefer.)

On Android, pull up your device’s “Digital Wellbeing” options in Settings and use the “Focus mode” option to block notifications from “distracting” apps—every news app but the one that will get you through election night.

I’m also a big fan of Android’s “Flip to Shhh” feature, if it’s present on your device. Leave your phone as it is during election night; if you’re finding it a bit much at any given moment, just set your phone on a surface screen-side down to automatically enable its Do Not Disturb mode. Once you’re ready to jump back in, flip it over again.

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