The high-tech gadgets world has us online and connected at all times. It’s impossible to avoid, but the question is: should we try to avoid them? There are more dangers to high-tech gadgets than simply being a distraction.
We’re told time and again that our generation is obsessed with high-tech gadgets and it’s true. I can’t name one person among my friends and family who is in their teens, 20s, or 30s that is not an arm’s length from their smartphone at any given time. When we have a moment, we don’t stop and smell the roses. Instead, we scroll through our social media feeds, our eyes reflecting the light of our screens and our minds feasting on the lives of others.
Most of our jobs are inextricably linked to technology and thus the necessary exploitation of their business-enhancing perks. Technology is how we connect, not only to those we know but also to consumers, employers, and even potential love interests. But there is a fine line between connectivity being a constructive thing and, well, a very bad thing. Technology has started to replace actual human interaction, making us increasingly asocial, but we still can’t get enough.
Here are 5 reasons why you should disconnect and take a walk outdoors for a change.
I’m guilty of it, and that makes me part of the 95 percent of Americans who use an electronic device within an hour of going to bed. I plug my iPhone in and set it on my bedside table. Then, I roll over, grab my phone, and spend 15-20 minutes (and sometimes up to an hour, eek!) scrolling through Instagram, watching random YouTube videos, or rereading e-mails before I sleep. It’s a sick habit, and I don’t need to be told it’s hurting my sleep to know it, because I definitely feel the difference. It takes me longer to get sleepy if my eyes are still hung over from the light of my screen. And science backs it up – electronic devices interfere with the sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythms. In a 2008 study, researchers found that people exposed to radiation from their mobile phones for three hours before bedtime had more trouble falling sleep and staying in a deep sleep.
The brain starts increasing the hormone melatonin at around bedtime (nine or ten PM), which makes the body sleepy. Melatonin is key in maintaining the circadian rhythm of the body. However, light can begin to suppress melatonin production. Red and amber lights do not suppress production, but blue, green, and white lights do. Bad news for cell phone and computer screens!
So, how can you avoid this? Some smartphones allow you to choose a low-light filter in the settings to minimize blue light emission. Meanwhile, there is an app that puts a crimson filter over your phone’s blue light. Leave it to tech to fix the effects of other tech! And, of course, there’s the full-proof method of avoiding your phone or computer screen a few hours leading up to bed as well as keeping all electronics outside of the bedroom while you sleep.
2. Stress Injuries
Repetitive, tiny movements you make to scroll, move a mouse, or type can build up to a much bigger problem in your body, not just the parts that are moving. These small-range movements can irritate tendons and put you at risk for pain in your shoulder, forearm, and hands.
If you have experienced recurring pain in a certain area of your upper body, consider the potentiality that your gadget game is to blame!
To prevent repetitive stress injuries, regularly stretch and twist your hands and fingers. Try out hand yoga for best results.
3. Back Pain (aka Tech-Neck)
Back problems are on the rise, and phone screens could be to blame. That’s what the British Chiropractic Association thinks, at least. According to researchers, 45 percent of 16 to 24 year olds suffer from back pain due to bending over a tablet, laptop, or smartphone. This figure is a startling 60 percent increase from last year. According to the association, every time you inch your head forward, you add ten more pounds of pressure to your neck – a slippery slope to damaging your spine and inflicting pain on your back.
To reduce tension on your neck, be aware of how you are sitting in relation to your laptop or smartphone. You ears should be at an equal distance from your shoulders and your chin neither up nor down. Your computer screen should be an arm’s length away.
4. Hearing Loss
Most hearing loss is permanent, and that’s alarming considering how many of us are tuned into our headphones and jamming to our favorite songs while walking to and fro. Listening to any sound more than 89 decibels for more than five hours per week can permanently damage hearing. I don’t know about you, but I blare my music at the highest volume.
To avoid premature hearing loss, abide by the 60:60 rule. This means, don’t listen to music more than 60 percent of your MP3 player’s maximum volume for more than one hour per day. Meanwhile, invest in noise canceling headphones.
5. Computer Vision Syndrome
If hearing loss wasn’t alarming enough, imagine compromising your ability to see. We spend so many hours per week looking at some sort of screen. It’s inevitable that doing so will start to affect our vision. Symptoms include eyestrain, double vision, and temporary shortsightedness. The so-called computer vision syndrome makes looking at a screen more comfortable than looking at real life.
To combat computer vision syndrome, try taking a break from screens altogether. Or, follow the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, take a break to view something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
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