Hunched over my laptop for the tenth hour in a row (this is a lot for me), I feel like something out of a sci-fi film; clicking, dabbing and extending my screen because I can’t see straight and need super big letters. Robotically moving my hand to my cup and my cup to my mouth without spilling a drop and sighing deeply when I need to leave my online life to attend to physical needs such as peeing, eating and replenishing fluids. Surely this is not the way we are supposed to spend our time, is it?
Technology is wonderful thing. It connects us to others, we can hook up with loved ones living in other places in the world, it is convenient (my jury is out on this one), and, if used mindfully, can even help us find a little piece of calm. But given that we have been blessed with this glorious thing called a body maybe we should power down and re-connect to our actual moving self here in real time more often.
It is no secret that a little unplugging can go a long way, yet most of us get coerced into checking emails, or find our addiction to social media impossible to break. But the sad reality is that all this technology is taking a toll on our health and on our future physical and mental development.
After a little research here is what I found out about the physical and mental affects of technology.
Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI)
Texting, and fiddling about with the mouse all day can cause serious problems for certain joints. This has resulted in ‘Text Thumb’, which can be a form of tendonitis, whereby there is an irritation and the thumb joint becomes inflamed and swollen. There has been a rise in surgeries in recent years so probably easier to phone someone or pop round for a chat perhaps.
Apparently sitting at your computer, with the odd forward and a backward motion, sometimes with a bigger bend down under the desk to check the cable situation, is the only action the spine gets whilst sitting continuously in one position. And if you think it is better using the phone, think again. Recent research by New York spine surgeon Kenneth Hansraj found that our constant Instagram scrolling and incessant text messaging may be hurting our backs and necks. The study found that when you tilt your head 60 degree to look at your phone you are in fact putting 60 pound of pressure on your spine.
What the Eye Can’t See
Staring at the screen, this includes the telly, can give us ‘digital eye strain’. Yes Specsavers and other spectacle retailers are having a field day, but it is no fun when most of us at some point suffer from tired, dry eyes and blurred vision. We take it for granted that this is normal these days, but it is not. There are more people wearing glasses or contact lens than there were just 10 years ago.
Germs and Low Sperms.
I put these together although they are not necessary related, but both quite alarming.
Our phones are covered in germs, bacteria that breed and jump onto our hands and faces. Have you ever taken your phone to the toilet, then washed your hands but not your phone? Puts a new angle on why you are always getting a cold, doesn’t it?
Secondly, sperm count can be significantly lowered in men who sit with laptop on their ‘laps’. Not only the heat but the electromagnetic radiation from laptop usage can cause serious issues for healthy sperm to prosper. So buy a desk, better still buy a bicycle and get out and get some fresh air. Take your wigglers for a jog.
The mental, this includes the social, affects are equally scary.
Dreaming of Widgets
It seems that excessive use of technology before bedtime effects the amount and quality of our sleep. The brain, like our laptop, needs to be shutdown in order to re-charge and set itself afresh for the coming new day. Research shows that excessive tech use (particularly right before bedtime) can have an adverse impact on our sleep cycles thanks to the screen light.
Cyber-famous,; A journey into narcissism
Sadly social media and the accessibility we all have these days to upload photos of ourselves from every device is worryingly dangerous for our sense of real time reality and our real selves. We ‘like’ her photo or his ‘status update’, we ‘tag’ our unsuspecting sister, brother or mother into the photo from 1977 and laugh at their bad fashion and hair, and then share it with our ‘friends’. Friends which we have quite possibly never met but are pleased when they comment on how fabulous we look in our latest profile pic (quietly enhanced by photoshop), and then we feel we have to bestow the same attention to their photos. It is a great big false ‘love in’, we don’t meet in reality and do this, so why online? It seems that the online relationships we are fostering are founded on narcissism, and a thin layer of truth, and ultimately are heading for all sorts of therapeutic support in the future.
For the most part Google is a resource like no other, now that is has been given ‘verb’ status too, we can’t seem to get enough. But beware you might catch something exotic and unknown. In an effort to self-diagnose a health problem you might be having, people are searching incessantly online for answers, to their itchy ear or sore big toe. Online doctors and advice lines are full with the 24 hour inquiries but experts suggest that searching for your symptoms online can result in some serious anxiety, rather than reassurance.
Lack of Satisfaction.
An opinion piece written for the New York Times (April 22, 2012) opens with the lines “We live in a technological universe in which we are always communicating. And yet we have sacrificed conversation for mere connection.”
Research says that loneliness and Facebook browsing are inextricably linked. This makes sense to any user who feels lonely on a Friday night after a bad week at work and wants to ‘message’ someone, without having to get dressed up to go out for dinner. But does it really work the other way round, can being on Facebook make you lonely? Experts say it is more likely that people who are lonely to begin with use the site more often. Regardless of the research, it seems that this Internet paradox is a very real phenomenon. Our social networks are linked to feelings of loneliness, as well as unhappiness. So another reason to move the body and go out and connect with a real person or experience to reduce your loneliness, not promote it.
Like all Drugs there are Withdrawals
If you don’t have an iPhone, don’t text, are not on Twitter, Facebook or have a professional profile on LinkedIn, then I guess you are in the minority. But I also guess that it is difficult not to check your emails everyday (maybe this is just me), or to check the web every few days to ‘google’ that piece of information, check that person on Wikipedia, and of course search for your symptoms in the latest pandemic news . Whether you are a daily user or an occasional dipper, I imagine you still use, because you can, you know it is there. The crux here is how much? And could you decrease, or stop your addiction altogether. Techno-addiction has usurped conversation. Perhaps our most basic human behaviour is losing out to e-mail and texting, not to mention Facebook and all the rest. Studies of what makes us happy have consistently shown that one of the things we need is genuine human contact not a replacement that we feel perfectly feeds our need of the moment, Thus making it so easy to get hooked on the immediate gratification of what technology has to offer in a nanosecond, rather than take time to build connections and relationships.
We need to remember our bodies, be good to ourselves. We need to get together with other people, to chat, laugh and dance. Let’s get outside and see first hand the nature that grows around us not film it and watch in later, possibly never. Technology can amaze us, but can it ever replace the technology of the mind and body working in synchrony to feed you the experiences that will last a lifetime. Personally I think not….it’s time to unplug.