Using our smartphones everyday has become a habit of our everyday lives much like brushing our teeth. What we fail to realize is the grave danger our gadgets can pose to our health. Without a hesitation, we put ourselves in harm’s way, sometimes without even realizing it. While we can’t completely abandon our smartphones all together, we should practice some common sense in refraining from using our phones at certain times of the day to see a better improvement in our health, and social aspect of our lives. See below for how your smartphone may be killing you.
- Sleep problems. Your smartphone, or tablet screen emits a blue light while you might be reading at night, inhibiting melatonin, our sleep hormone from ever reaching our brains to induce sleep. This causes your brain to not receive the signal that it is nighttime. Instead, your brain is tricked into thinking it is still daytime. Your circadian rhythm becomes wrecked, and you wake up the next morning feeling groggy, and not refreshed. If you suspect this is the culprit behind your bedtime routine, you can try to dim your screen before bedtime to minimize this effect. Reading a book or magazine the old fashion way can work wonders too.
- Social comparison/loneliness. If you use your phones or tablets to connect online, primarily on social media, you could be missing out on living your own life. Several studies have shown that those who scan other people’s feeds are more unhappy, depressed, and lonely in their own lives, especially when they engage in social comparison. While spending time connecting with others online can be quite healthy, the trick is to find the happy medium, without causing an imbalance in your own life.
- Poor posture. Your electronic device could be putting some added pressure to your spine. Every time you tilt you head forward, you develop what scientists call “text neck,” essentially putting strain on your neck, and in the long run affecting your posture. It is therefore important to straighten your back next time you send out an email, or try to put your device at eye level, instead of looking down in a stooped form.
- Strained Eyesight. After staring at a screen for long period of time, our eyes become dry, and as a result the eye becomes less lubricated with natural tears it is suppose to produce. Since this is very hard habit to pull away from, you can mitigate the negative consequences of this, by not forgetting to blink. Not blinking as often as you could, or should, can result in excessive eye strain, headaches, fatigue, vision problems, problems with focus, and many more uncomfortable symptoms. It’s important to limit the time you spent a day on these devices, and most importantly to schedule mini frequent breaks. If that is not possible, or practical, eye doctors recommend the old 20:20:20 rule- every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away from you for 20 seconds.
- Poor eye contact/social skills. Have you noticed that your eye contact is not as strong as it used to be? It could be your excessive screen time use, which makes it not only impossible and hard to form connections with new people, but makes your non verbal cues such as eye contact start to slip/take a back seat. Put your phone down, so you can start to interact with the world around you. In fact, you can begin now by putting your phone away, and engage in some solid people watching.
- Cyberchondria. People who rely too much on their electronic devices for medical information that most likely is not always entirely accurate, may be causing themselves severe psychological/physical stress and putting themselves at a disservice. What they perceived as an initial cough, suddenly with the aid of their fingertips, has trans morphed into something very serious, leading to a faulty self diagnosis, making the situation a lot worse. While doctors are clearly not all infallible, its best to make an appointment with your doc if you are concerned about a pressing health issue. When you do engage in some research of your own which is totally acceptable, and encourage able, make sure you are visiting reputable medical sites.
- Poor memory. Heavy reliance on the digital can cause similar memory problems and cognitive impairment issues that are evident in patients suffering from dementias, which can be a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease. When we are acutely aware that our devices will store information for us, we are less likely to commit it into our short and long term memory. German neuroscientist Manfred Spitzer coined this term ‘digital dementia,’ and therefore it is not unusual to remember anything anymore. Next time, try remembering a phone number or an address without pulling it up from your phone at first, or perhaps refrain from taking a photo of what you are looking at. Chances are, you will remember it better in the AM.
- Excessive sitting. We are a society that loves spending an inordinate amount of time sitting. You are most likely reading this article sitting down. Studies have shown that excessive sitting can lead to a whole host of problems ranging from poor blood circulation to cardiovascular issues, diabetes, and some cancers, as a result of your arteries stiffening up on you. Make sure to schedule walk breaks every 45 minutes throughout your work day if you often find yourself sitting too much at your desk. Have an email to send? Consider walking over to your coworker.
- Depression and anxiety as a result of too much screen time. Too much screen time every day can contribute to weight gain, especially around the middle. This of course can lead to depression and anxiety, as you become less aware of how much you are eating. Instead, step away from your devices, and consider enjoying a mindful well-balanced lunch, sans phone.
With all of these terrible side effects of our electronic devices, and technology in general, it is best to seriously limit our interactions with them. With the wear and tear of life already on us, we do not need the added stress and strain that these devices put on our bodies, and our minds. With so many things in life that are out of our control, this is clearly not one of them. The power is in our hands.