I pride myself for having an insatiable thirst for knowledge. And I like to think that’s why I simply cannot and will-not survive without my iPhone.
Often while watching TV when I cannot remember where I have seen an actor before, I quickly turn to IMDB without a second wasted. If mid-conversation (or while reading a book) I come across a word I don’t exactly know the meaning to, I find myself counting minutes till I can check on Wikipedia. On those sleepless nights when I’m tired of ‘trying to drift off’ as my husband is blissfully passed out besides me in bed, I lower the brightness of my iPhone and spend many happy hours ‘Googling’ things of my interest. I even use an App to learn French because I don’t have any ‘real time’ to join a class.
So when my friends and husband claim I’m Addicted to My iPhone, I happily respond by saying “ It’s addiction worthy, I have the world on my fingertips”.
But a couple weeks back I noticed that my eyes started to twitch. I was seeing far less clearly without my glasses (and I’m only supposed to use them while reading or working). It was clear to me that my eyes were stressed.
A visit to the ophthalmologist confirmed the pressure inside my eyes was quite high. And since I’m too young to technical have glaucoma, he inquired if I was doing something ‘extra’ to stress out my eyes.
To this, my husband jumped and enthusiastically answered “She’s glued to her phone like it’s her lifeline”. The doctor prescribed some eye-drops and told me that his professional medical advice for my vision troubles would be: Kindly use your phone like a phone.
I know I almost over-use my phone. Hell, I’m typing this very post on the iPhone ‘Notes’ right now coz I’m too lazy to switch on my computer! (In my defense, it’s rather too cold in the study to brave typing this post on my computer!)
And it’s not just me. Everyone around seems to be glued to their Smartphone throughout their waking hours. Find a few free minutes – let’s watch a video on YouTube. Missing your sister – let’s WhatsApp rather than calling. Want to pick new shoes- let’s browse through online stores quickly.
So the question is: Is our Smartphone really becoming a bigger pain than gain – negatively affecting our personal relationships as well as health?
I was adamant to get to the bottom of it. And quite frankly, the data I found through my research was literally an ‘eye opener’.
Is your Smartphone bad for you?
You love your Smartphone. It makes your life so much simpler. But could it actually be an evil?
For many, Smartphones aren’t just a convenience, they are an obsession. People are constantly on their phones these days – on the shit pot, while driving, while eating a meal, while walking and even during their workout, and sometimes even when in conversation with another person! A study published in 2009 by Lohr documented that ‘Smartphones result in distracted driving and increase stress levels as people are constantly multi-tasking far beyond their capabilities’.
After the rapid banning of texting while driving, there are many countries that are now considering putting a ban on “texting while walking” in reaction to pedestrian fatalities. In Japan, more than a dozen people fall off railway platforms while looking at their phones each year! Train station announcements remind commuters to look where they’re going, and even mobile phone companies have begun to educate users about the dangers of looking at a phone while walking.
But these are concerns for one’s safety (not that I think it’s not important). What about the negative impact of Smartphones on other aspects of our life like our health, say for example, my recent vision problems?
8 ill-effects of being addicted to your phone
1. Exposure to germs –
Now this sounds a little preposterous. However, its true – your phone is making you more prone to infections. You put the phone down on so many surfaces, and you don’t really know how clean all those surfaces are. The bathroom sink, the counter of your local bar, old musty files in the archives department. And then you put the phone to your face. Obviously, you are transmitting germs and you cannot exactly go around sanitizing your touch phone now, can you? So if you are prone to acne and other skin allergies, its best to at least wipe your phone regularly with sanitizing wipes (assuming you do have a screen guard on the phone) so as to minimize exposure.
2. Dampened Creativity –
What would you do if you didn’t spend so many hours browsing on your Smartphone? Probably read a few books, engage in some social or creative activities, or have an intellectually stimulating conversation with another intelligent human being. But if you are anything like me, you are probably spending all your free time reading news updates, checking out online stores, reading blogs and getting in touch with people via social media. Many psychologists now believe that as a result, our creative thoughts cannot flourish. And on the days the wireless network is down or slow, you tend to feel rather cranky, bored and depressed.
3. Emotional Disconnect –
You had a bad moment and you immediately decided to read something fun on the internet. Or chat to a few online friends to forget all about the issue, rather than deal with it. Sounds familiar? Unfortunately, while turning to your phone in moments of distress may take your mind off troubling thoughts momentarily, you aren’t really dealing with the situation in the right manner. And that means you aren’t really fixing the problems at all. It’s all going to come back to haunt you, and will negatively affect your mental health. I recently read a Facebook post where a woman confessed she missed her son’s first steps because she was chatting on WhatsApp and not savoring the special moment. That cannot be very good for her confidence in being a good mother!
4. Eye Strain –
David Allamby, an eye surgeon and the founder of Focus Clinics in London, recently coined the term “screen sightedness” and pointed out that according to his research, there has been a 35% increase in the number of people with advancing myopia since Smartphones launched in 1997. That’s exactly what I am dealing with, and let me tell you, it isn’t pleasant. People tend to hold Smartphones considerably closer to their faces than they would a book or newspaper, even as close as seven or eight inches. And since Smartphones have such a small screen, the incidents of peering closely at them tend to be higher than for other devices. Add to that the stress we pose on our eyes when we want to read a new blog in bed, after we have turned off the lights. And considering that you too spend about 8 hours a day in front of your computer at work, and then another couple of hours staring at the TV once you are home, your eyes were already pretty stressed out to begin with!
5. Increased Stress –
Every time your phone pings, you feel a sense of anxiety to quickly see who’s up to what on Facebook or Twitter. You have access to emails all the time – good and bad. Smartphones have made it almost impossible to separate your professional life from your personal life – you are reachable via email, text, chat and even Skype 24×7 and hence you feel stressed out all the time. This is especially true for people with high stress jobs.
6. Reduced productivity –
Sometimes, a Smartphone can keep you from being as productive as you could have been otherwise. You waste time watching videos and browsing through websites when you could have been working on that report. You could have finished that book for your book-club meeting rather than checking out FaceBook. And you also could have cooked a nice, nutritious meal if you weren’t totally glued to Pinterest searching for yummy recipes right up till the moment you realized you were ravenously hungry and will instead settle for some peanut butter sandwiches. Sounds familiar?
7. Increased risk for Sleep Disorders –
Now this is rather disturbing. Research studies show that Smartphones are deeply linked to sleeping disorders. Take your phone to bed, and you may find it’s rather hard to exit your favourite App. You find yourself plugged in while you should be winding down. Instead of relaxing your brain, you are feeding it with more thoughts. It’s hard to fall asleep when your brain is buzzing with new information, and more often than not sleep disorders are the result if your Smartphone is your trusted nightly companion.
8. Poor personal relationships –
We all know that mental and emotional health are both big contributing factors to our overall health. So why do we constantly ignore the relationships in our life? Rather than spending time with our family, talking to them, getting to know them better, why are we obsessed with trying to find out what’s happening in the rest of the world? By ignoring personal relationship, you unintentionally build communication barriers. And with poor communication in a relationship comes stress that hampers your mental and emotional well being.
As you can see, these are all proven facts that point towards one result – smart phones easily affect several areas of our overall health; and they really could become a pain. So what is the solution?
A. Should we try to strike a sense of balance and use our phones in moderation for the sake of our health?
B. Should we try to limit browsing time and instead set out time slots when we will actually talk to other people or read books and magazines to stay engaged?
C. Or should we all also invest in a tablet, so that at least the screen is large enough to not cause eye strain?
For now, I have decided to go with option C with a little bit of option A thrown in for the sake of my health 😉 And I leave you to make your own choice!
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