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We all love our electronic pacifiers: those little devices that sap our time and make us anonymous in a crowd. Smart phones and tablets have their place. Waiting at the DMV jumps to mind, as does long road trips with children—thus the term “electronic pacifiers.” Young and old, we all rely on them sometimes. I’m completely guilty.
As with all things, there’s a time and a place, coupled with the ever-present need for moderation. Below are four reasons your health and happiness can only be fully recharged by “unplugging.”
1. People are forgetting how to communicate.
Have you seen teenagers message each other while in line at restaurants instead of just talking to each other? Next time you’re at a restaurant, look at the families. Instead of talking to each other, you’re likely to find everyone on their own phone, doing their own thing. People need that human connection and a phone is no substitute.
2. Your neck and back were made for upright, face-to-face conversation. They’ll fight back.
Slumped over in a chair with your neck and back curled around an irresistible app puts pounds of pressure on the spine. According to a study in Surgical Technology International, people spend an average of two to four hours a day with their heads tilted over their smartphone. This is 700 to 1,400 hours a year of excess stresses on the cervical spine!
3. Your hands were meant for a variety of tasks.
Remember when carpel tunnel syndrome was an ailment reserved for adults? Usually they had professions like graphic design that required repetitive small hand movements all day. Now even teenagers are feeling the same symptoms from phone use (or abuse). There’s also an ailment called Cell Phone Elbow, where people have tingling and numbness in the fingers after having their elbows bent for long periods of time.
4. Phone overuse can disrupt your sleep and damage your eyesight.
Business Insider recently reported on the dangers of the blue light emitted by phones. This light is natural, and we’re exposed to the same spectrum every day when we’re in the sun, but the body is also made to shut down and sleep. When exposed to blue light at night, it can damage vision and suppress the production of melatonin, the hormone that helps you sleep. TVs produce this light, but the effects are even stronger from phones and tablets since people have their eyes closer to the screen than they do while watching TV.
Maybe it’s time to unplug so you can truly recharge. Adults can reconnect with their families and friends. Friends can remember what it’s like to hang out in person. Children can remember how to play pretend and use their imagination. If you need a little help, there’s even an app for that (of course). It’s called Forest, and it rewards you for remembering to be part of the non-digital society. The app allows you to plant virtual trees that “grow” if you ignore your phone for certain periods of time, activating the reward region of the brain—the region that makes these little gadgets so addicting in the first place.
As a bonus, the more you ignore your phone, the more your body will thank you. You may even sleep better! Perhaps you’ll even have the energy and clarity of thought to reach out to a friend—in person—and really do something—something outside in the sunshine!
Make it memorable. Make it worth posting—snappable even. We won’t judge; after all, none of us can go completely cold turkey!
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