Notifications At the Speed of Red

You don’t need me to tell you how red manipulates you.

  • blood
  • hunger (speeds up energy, blood flow, metabolism)
  • sex (clothes, lipstick…)
  • common in animals because it’s vivid against blue sky and green plants; thus danger
  • traffic lights
  • road signs, exit signs, occupied signs

Red provokes a “now” response: fear, anticipation, STRONG EMOTIONS!

It can be used for good, like all technology. But in marketing, not so much.

Somebody chose that shade of red, yellow, or whatever. That means they have a goal. And if they have a business, that goal is to sell you things. Burgers and fries or advertising as you scroll. As the saying goes, if you’re not paying for it, you’re the product.

Sure, it depends on what they’re selling you: snake oil or something you want (and even that’s subjective). But the intention isn’t good or bad, just provoking. Stop signs should be red, not blue.

Don’t you think the signs here would, for maximum impact, be in bright red?

Consume, Submit, Obey billboards
Source: “They Live,” probably.

There are ways to counter this, though.

You can change your screen to monochrome. Most devices have a setting for that.


But if you bounce over to LinkedIn whenever you see the notification circle, the color won’t make a difference.

Here’s the deal: if you know you’re being manipulated, chances are you’re not being manipulated. Then you get to choose.

If red is hooking you in a way you don’t want to succumb to anymore, the only thing you can do is be conscious and question if you really need it. It’s something you’ve given in to before and you don’t want to let it hook you again. Are you gonna take that from a color?

That’s what digital wellness, the hot new craze, is all about. Do you need social media or another thing to be afraid of or outraged about? How about a video game that gobbles down five hours and now you don’t have time (again) to do that project staring at you from across the room?

Maybe you don’t need it, but you want it.

We all might want it more if it’s red. But we won’t ever need it because it’s red.

Look around. What red manipulates you?

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