I’m getting worn down by all the digital noise. By digital noise I mean the constant barrage of alerts, notifications, pings, email subscriptions I didn’t sign up for, email subscriptions I DID sign up for but regret doing so, all the inputs that come through my connected devices.

Sometimes I secretly wish I could be one of those people who moves off the grid, abandons the smartphone, deletes all social media, and lives a quiet minimalist life in the woods. I think that’s too extreme for me, though.

The problem with digital noise is that within it is signal. Some emails I care about, some internet content is informative or entertaining, some aspects of digital connectedness do translate to real connectedness.

A few years back, I turned off all alerts on my phone except for text messages and phone calls. That was a big help. I don’t get many text messages or calls these days anyway (I think your social circle naturally shrinks a bit as you get older, but the interactions are more meaningful, as opposed to the random acquaintance hitting you up wanting to go out that night or whatever (no shade, truly—in my 20s and early 30s, I was usually the random acquaintance)).

More recently, I created a mail filter for emails containing the word “unsubscribe” to bypass my inbox and go into a folder called Subscriptions. I check it once every other day or so. This has also helped, although every once in awhile I miss an email that should probably have been addressed earlier because it doesn’t go to my inbox. I think that is a reasonable price to pay for a little more peace.

Still, there is too much noise. Advertising on social media and marketing emails are the worst offenders. Well, it would be reductive to say that it’s all bad and that technology is evil and things were better in the before times. The most vocal critics rail against specific wonders of technology such as the infinite scroll and “the algorithm.” I used to be one of them, but I’ve been reading this book (slowly, because ironically or not ironically I keep getting sidetracked by digital noise) called The Age of Surveillance Capitalism in which the central thesis, if I can flatten a book of several hundred pages to a punchy phrase with little nuance, is that it’s not technology that’s the problem, it’s capitalism. I need to actually finish reading the book and chew on it a bit, but it’s an interesting take that kind of makes sense on first blush. (Not that I’m going to abandon capitalism, if such a thing were even possible; I happen to have a skillset and background that works with capitalism, to a certain degree, such that what I produce as a laborer enables me to provide for myself.)