My 85-year-old father says to me that he’s receiving strange calls from different countries around the world. When he answers… no one’s there.
Of course, I tell my dad that these repeated annoyances are called spam robocalls that most every cell phone owner is troubled by. I explain that he should simply avoid answering them, and hopefully they will stop.
He protests that there has to be a more effective solution. But I just don’t want to go down the rabbit hole of suggesting a spam-blocker app, which I have yet to attempt for myself.
We move on to another topic of conversation, but I’m left with residual unease over the topic. I, too am enduring disruptive spam calls…
And in that moment, I resolve to attempt a dramatic solution for myself…
Do Not Disturb!
This fix to stop spam calls is admittedly overkill, because it also limits access to your iPhone for any legitimate calls trying to get through.
You simply activate your iPhone’s “Do Not Disturb” setting.
Some people call it the nuclear option, because what’s the point of having a phone if nobody can call you?!
Well, the answer lies in the details…
After checking out the different options for the “Do Not Disturb” setting, I realized there’s actually a way to let your phone still be a phone.
And instead of hiding from the world, you can end up feeling like you have a whole lot more control of it.
Wean Yourself from the Buzz
Spam calls aren’t the only distraction your iPhone and Apple Watch serve up throughout your day. There are any number of other ‘notifications’ that your apps provide, which are accompanied by a ping or buzz. The cumulative result of checking these in-the-moment updates can really suck away at your productivity and distract from where you should be focusing.
But it feels so good, receiving all of those little nuggets of information, right? You’re so up to date!
If this is the baseline of your reality, taking all of that away might create something of a withdrawal response, because you’re no longer getting instantaneous access to new information, even though you’ve opted in.
So, that was me.
And that’s why I had never silenced my chatty apps or activated “Do Not Disturb” on my iPhone.
But you don’t really have to forgo all of that incoming communication from the outside world. You just need to direct its flow more intentionally…
Create Your New Rulebook
The trick is to modify the settings in your iPhone to create a new and more enlightened rulebook that says, “Do not disturb me… sometimes,” or more accurately…” do not disturb me…unless you really know who it Is.”
Here’s how you do that:
- Tap your Settings icon
- Tap “Do Not Disturb” (with the crescent moon)
- Activate the “Do Not Disturb” green slider on the top
- Under the “Silence” option, tap “While iPhone is Locked”
- Next to the “Allow Calls From” option, select “All Contacts”
Now, what you’ve done is to tell your iPhone to allow calls from all of your contacts. Anyone else will have to leave a voicemail. If you’re like me, unless you know who’s calling you, you’re not going to answer the call anyway for fear it’s spam. So, all of this isn’t so big a change.
And taking this step effectively shuts down all of those horrible spam robocalls.
Learn to Look for Your Texts
What is a big change is all of your texts and app notifications also get blocked. Yes, even the text is from someone in your Contacts.
But those texts haven’t gone anywhere. They’re simply waiting for you to find them. And you can easily do that just by activating your iPhone’s screen.
The “Silence… While iPhone is Locked” subsetting means that when your device is unlocked, all of the messaging that’s waiting for you pops up.
So, functionally, you just need to check for your messages. And of course how quickly you get your texts relies on how often you check. No, you don’t want be pulling out your iPhone every two minutes. That looks a little crazy. And it is a bit crazy.
That said, if you also own an Apple Watch and you still feel compelled, you can mask your insanity by choosing the Messages icon as one of your Apple Watch’s complications. If a text comes through, the little icon will display “1 Unread.”
Looking at your Apple Watch every two minutes is slightly more socially appropriate, although you’ll look like you’re always in a rush.
If you know you’re waiting for an important text, you can also temporarily turn off “Do Not Disturb” in your iPhone’s Control Center.
Just tap the crescent moon.
Modified Do Not Disturb
This modified “Do Not Disturb” strategy will stop those evil spam calls. And you’ll have no more interruptions, unless someone in your Contacts calls you.
(You can also narrow that list of who ‘gets through’ by choosing “Favorites” or a particular “Group” as opposed to “All Contacts.”)
And if you want see what other messaging comes your way, just check every so often.
It’s not that bad, really…
I’ve just done it.
No, it’s not a perfect solution. When my wife or a friend texts me, I’m not longer getting instantaneous notification. Their calls still get through, but I have to look at my Apple Watch or iPhone to see if there’s a new text waiting for me.
(And that could cause a 15-minute delay, which is an eternity for someone looking for a text response.)
If I could make a recommendation to Apple, it would be to modify “Do Not Disturb” to allow texts from people in your Contacts to get through… just like phone calls.
But again, if you know you’re waiting for an important piece of news or a text, just temporarily turn off your “Do Not Disturb” mode.
If you’re still thinking about my dad, yes, I suggested all of this to him, but he thought it was too draconian. Shutting out the outside world, even in a modified way can be a hard step to take. He said he’d be happier just enduring the ringing. Maybe he’ll reconsider in the future…
As for me, I’ve got to say it feels great blocking all of those spam robocalls and receiving texts and notifications ‘on demand.’
I’m no longer unnecessarily interrupted throughout my day by technology that’s designed to make my life better.
Too many want too much of my attention.
“Do Not Disturb.”
You should try it.