Could Our Tech Dependence Be Making Us Sick?
If you’re like many Americans, your morning probably starts something like this: the alarm on your cell phone goes off. You reach over, silence the noise, and immediately begin scrolling through one of several social media apps. You scan your email, check the latest breaking news headlines and take a quick peek at the weather forecast for the day. You haven’t even climbed out of bed yet and you’ve already interacted with some of your friends and coworkers and pondered the top headlines.
Sound familiar? You’re not alone. A survey by InMobi, a mobile ad company, revealed that people spend about 144 minutes of every day on their mobile phones. On top of that, many people arrive at work, only to sit in front of a computer and continue what they started at home. The ability to stay connected around the clock makes life convenient in many ways, but have you ever stopped to consider how this nearly constant use of mobile devices and computers may be affecting your overall health?
According to a recent article on Babble.com, technology could actually be making us sick. “Constantly being online and connected causes us to work way past office hours, thinking being more productive is a great thing. But what we are actually doing is robbing our bodies of what they really need, which is an opportunity to disconnect, recharge, and live a little offline,” the article states.
So what are some of the other hazards associated with this constant dependence on our mobile and desktop devices? Well, for one thing, many of us take great pride in our ability to multitask, which means we may be less focused. For example, at this very moment, you may be reading this article on your phone while sitting at your desk. You probably have six or seven tabs open on your desktop web browser, a conference call starting in a few minutes and your half-eaten breakfast next to you. With the exception of breakfast (which you may have ordered online and had delivered) none of these tasks would be possible without technology.
“We are not fully, completely ever involved in one task. Spending an insane amount of time online seems to be changing the mechanics of our brain function. We are getting used to clicking and having things in front of us instantly, which may result in our lack of focus, even lowering our attention span, to a degree,” the Babble.com article states.
A few hours from now, you might even find yourself squinting at your computer monitor while your shoulders ache and you realize you haven’t been outdoors in at least seven hours. There’s actually a medical condition called Computer Vision Syndrome, which can cause everything from blurred vision and dry eyes to headaches. And those aching shoulders and stiff neck? That might be a condition that physical therapists refer to as “text neck.” An article on CNN.com states that the term was coined back in 2008 by Dr. Dean Fishman who said the condition goes beyond texting – it’s also “a gaming and emailing problem.”
The article states that “the average human head weighs 10 pounds in a neutral position — when your ears are over your shoulders. For every inch you tilt your head forward, the pressure on your spine doubles. So if you’re looking at a smart phone in your lap, your neck is holding up what feels like 20 or 30 pounds.” This could even cause your spine to pull itself out of alignment. But wait, there’s more.
Slouching over to check your phone can also cause metabolic problems, experts say, adding that it can actually reduce your lung capacity by 30 percent. That’s pretty alarming when you stop to think about it.
Even after reading the eye-opening facts about the “hazards” of technology, few of us will be inclined to put down our phones and tablets or step away from our computers. So how do we avoid these health hazards?
First and foremost, sit up straight when using your phone, tablet or desktop computer to avoid added pressure on your neck and back. In addition, physical therapists suggest taking breaks about every 20 minutes. Stand up, step away from your desk, leave your phone behind and go for a walk. We know, being disconnected from email and social media sounds scary. But chances are you’ll survive without knowing where your friends “checked in” during lunch or reading those last few emails or tweets.