For all of the wonderful things technology gives us, it can certainly cause a helluva lot of problems. We're constantly connected, constantly checking emails, and always on call to answer the phone. And if those stressors aren't bad enough, consider the fact there are other sneaky ways technology can affect your health.
I'm not saying that you should toss your phone out the window or ditch your laptop in the trash. Of course not. But there are several negative things that technology is doing to our minds and bodies that are worth considering.
Here's an example: As I write this I'm slumped over my laptop and it's totally hurting my back. I have my headphones in, and they're maybe a tad too loud. And my phone is right within arm's reach, which is not giving my eyes much of a break as I look from one screen to the other.
When you think about it, the way we live can't be good. With all the slumping and the screens and the headphone use, how we expect to not have any side effects? And how can we expect to handle these effects when we're not willing to give up our gadgets?
Here are some surprising ways technology may be affecting your health, and some tips for what to do about it, so you can have your proverbial cake and eat it, too.
1. Phones Are Messing With Your Posture
Think of all the time you spend bending over your phone. Hey, you're probably doing it right now, and that's cool. But you don't want to do it all day. In fact, if you do, it can cause something called "text neck," which is a 21st century ailment caused by hunching over your phone. According to Lindsey Bever in The Washington Post, "The human head weighs about a dozen pounds. But as the neck bends forward and down, the weight on the cervical spine begins to increase. At a 15-degree angle, this weight is about 27 pounds, at 30 degrees it’s 40 pounds, at 45 degrees it’s 49 pounds, and at 60 degrees it’s 60 pounds." Basically, your head is like a giant bowling ball bobbling on top of your skinny neck. And when you lean forward, it pulls your spine forward in ways that are far from from natural. Give your neck a break, and make it a point to hold your phone more at eye level.
2. Typing Is Screwing Up Your Hands
Have you ever gotten that weird ache in your thumb after too many hours spent texting on your phone? It turns out that it's a legit problem, and it's cropping up more often in all us phone addicts. Whether it's pain caused by using a keyboard, or aches from holding your phone too much, it's true that constantly typing away can cause all sorts of hand and wrist pain. As orthopedic surgeon Aaron Daluiski, M.D., chief of the Hand and Upper Extremity Service at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City explained to the Huffington Post, too much time spent on your phone can lead to tendinitis, which is an inflammation of the tendons. Since tendonitis is linked to overuse and repetitive motions of the hands and fingers, it may be to blame for your aches.
3. Screens Are Straining Your Eyes
When I was little, my parents constantly told me not to sit too close to the TV because they didn't want me straining my eyes. But what did we all grow up and do? Stare at our computers, phones, and tablets for literally hours on end. This constant, transfixed staring in one spot can cause all sorts of eye problems. According to an article by Susan Kuchinskas on WebMD, "The human eye is not adapted for staring at a single point in space for hours on end. If you log significant time in front of a computer monitor, you've probably experienced computer vision syndrome: eyestrain, tired eyes, irritation, redness, blurred vision, and double vision." If this is happening to you, be sure to look up from your screen every now and then to give your eyes a rest.
4. Too Much Screen Time Can Give You A Headache
The next time you have a pounding headache, consider how long you've been starting at your computer. According to Lindsay Holmes in the Huffington Post, "If you stare at a screen for too long, you may experience tension headaches as another result of digital eye strain. Reading dark text on a bright screen can lead to muscle spasms at the temples. To alleviate the pain, adjust the contrast on your screen."
5. Social Media Is Getting You Down
The effects of technology aren't limited to physical stuff. According to an article in The Guardian, "Researchers in the U.S. analyzed over a billion updates from a million or so Facebook users and found that negative posts had a domino effect, causing similarly downbeat posts from others." A domino effect is one thing, but consider all the other effects from social media. FOMO, comparisons, Internet bullies — it can be quite the mess online. If you find yourself getting wrapped up in all the goings on online, make sure you give yourself a little social media vacation.
6. Constant Headphone Use Can Damage Your Hearing
If you know a single person who hasn't drowned out the sounds of passersby with their headphones, I'd be perfectly surprised. We've all done it, and for many of us, blasting loud music into our heads has become a habit. Not surprisingly, using headphones all day long can cause some hearing problems. According to Kuchinksas, researchers are finding that many young people are losing the ability to hear high frequencies, which used to be something that didn't happen until middle age. So, at the risk of sounding like a grandma, I say give your ears a break and don't play your music too loud.
Of course we aren't going to give up our technology, but that doesn't mean we can't take a break. Consider putting down your phone, closing your laptop, and giving yourself some tech-free time for the sake of your health.
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