Facebook is making an effort to make its countless eyeball-grabbing elements less distracting with a new test of notification customization.
According to app researcher and reverse-engineering expert Jane Manchun Wong, Facebook is currently testing the ability to turn on and off the red notification dots, known as badges, that you get for individual tabs of the company’s mobile app. That way, if you don’t really care much for Watch or groups, you don’t have to stare down yet another bright red badge number demanding your attention.
According to TechCrunch, this is a global test on iOS and Android. “We are testing new ways to give people more control over the notifications they receive in the Facebook app,” a Facebook spokesperson told the outlet.
The spokesperson added that the company is aware users don’t need to be reminded many times over that notifications are waiting, especially when you’re already able to tailor how specific app notifications appear through system-level customizations in iOS and Android.
As John Herrman wrote in a New York Times article last year titled “How Tiny Red Dots Took Over Your Life,” the modern-day notification design has been refined and calibrated over the years to maximize the likelihood that the average phone user will tap on an app icon or an in-app one once they’re already pulled in.
“What’s so powerful about the dots is that until we investigate them, they could signify anything: a career-altering email; a reminder that Winter Sales End Soon; a match, a date, a ‘we need to talk,’’ Herrman writes of the devastatingly hypnotizing effect that even the small, subtle design element can have on our brains.
A number of tech companies have had convenient awakenings of late about the effects their apps and services may have both on individuals and society, and efforts are now underway to help us better manage our relationship with technology. This is primarily through app usage monitoring and notification settings; Apple uses Screen Time for this, and for Google, it’s called Digital Wellbeing.
While Facebook doesn’t have its own buzzword-friendly equivalent — although it does have dashboards for monitoring usage in the main app and Instagram — it seems likely that the company is similarly thinking long and hard about how to help users better tailor the mobile experience and avoid needless distractions.
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