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She recommends using technology for communication and organization, but turning off the alerts, especially for incoming e-mails, which she likens to needy toddlers.
“Toddlers come up to you and pull on your pant leg and they never stop until you give them your full attention,” she said. “Put the nagging toddler in the playpen.”
No eye roll necessary
Fans of digital alerts say that ability to turn them off is a key difference from human nagging.
“The nice thing about these reminders is that we, as individuals, can control them,” said Mark Henderson, division chair for information technology at Mayo, who has been involved in developing its mobile app for patients, which includes a reminder features for upcoming appointments.
Technology can also be more consistent in its instruction and less emotional than a human.
Everybody has dealt with (and dished out) unrequested reminders, especially with family members. Researchers have found that repeated nagging can cause stress among couples, and even contribute to divorce.
“The digital delivery of something just cuts through all those innuendos, hidden meanings that sometimes are included in the spoken word but not in the pop-up text message that you get,” Henderson said.
People interested in getting fit are often drawn to apps because the digital nudges offer accountability without any shame or blame, said Shannon Fable, director of exercise programming for Anytime Fitness. The Hastings-based chain of fitness centers offers apps and online tools for tracking workouts, including a feature that lets you schedule specific workouts in advance, and then send an e-mail reminder that day.
Other fitness apps, like MapMyRun, will send an alert if it’s been awhile since the last jog. There are even wearable fitness gadgets like FitBit Flex and Jawbone Up that will buzz to remind people to get up and move at set intervals.
“Where a device is better than a person, it can be anonymous,” Fable said. “It’s not judging me. It might nag me, but I can turn it off if I hate it.”
Indeed, Monisha Perkash, CEO and co-founder of posture app LumoBack, said some people turn to the buzzing belt and related app because the verbal reminders in their lives are getting to be too much.
“There are a lot of customers we have who do want their mothers or wives to stop nagging them,” Perkash said. “This is a more gentle way.”
Katie Humphrey • 612-673-4758