Which of These Notification Sounds Gives You the Most Anxiety?

Busy Simulator replicates the notification sounds of multiple apps like Slack and iMessage, making you seem super busy and important during meetings. 
December 16, 2021, 2:00pm
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels. A person's face on a laptop screen.

At this point in 2021, most remote workers are well familiar with the Zoom call that will not end. Someone drones on about nothing for an hour, the meeting seems to reach a natural ending point, and then someone else uses that absolutely cursed raise-hand feature for a 20-minute tangent. A barrage of Slack notifications knock-brushing into the call would be a nice parachute out of there.

Busy Simulator is a web app that mimics the notification sounds for nine different platforms—Google Calendar, Slack, Microsoft Teams, Discord, Apple Mail, Outlook, iMessage, Google Chat, and Skype, plus a vibrating phone noise—to use when you need an excuse out of a meeting that is making you want to claw your eyes out. 

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It’s created by technologist Brian Moore, the co-creator of Do Not Touch Your Face, the web app from right before the COVID-19 pandemic was declared in the U.S. That was back when we were still blissfully unaware of how coronavirus spread, and thought it spread through germy surfaces and face touching (and not huffing close-proximity office air, as I was doing to demo that video—and subsequently came down with COVID two weeks later). 

Now here I am almost two years later, with 90 percent of my daily interactions happening in Zoom and Slack. 

Moore told me that he was inspired to make Busy Simulator because he’s likewise stuck on Zoom all day, working remotely. “The inspiration was realizing that some coworkers never turned off their notification sounds while on calls,” he said. “My first thought was ‘wow, this person must be super busy.’ My second thought was ‘wow, anybody could seem super busy with a webapp that could make these sounds at regular intervals.’”

Moore tested the app during a meeting recently, unmuting his microphone and letting multiple notification noises fly. He posted the video to Twitter:

People were not into it. Several people looked genuinely angry. Many more laughed awkwardly. One guy walked away. “I can only hope that it helps others seem insanely busy,” Moore said.

The Discord notification wells up some uniquely terrible dread in me, personally, just because of the frankly fucked-up nature of some of the Discord channels I’m in for reporting reasons. The Google Calendar notification is a close second. It’s my editor Emanuel Maiberg’s least favorite sound also, for the same reason: “If I hear that notif it means I forgot and am going to be late to a meeting.” 

Moore said his least favorite is the iMessage one. “Especially when you ramp it up to maximum frequency, it triggers a strong ‘my coworkers are trying to alert me that i'm screensharing the wrong window’ vibe,” he said. If you set all of these to ring as frequently as possible, at the same time, you might even get out of work for the day.