When is the last time you can remember doing without your smart phone, iPhone, or laptop for more than 30 minutes? Can’t recall? I’m not surprised! The American Psychological Association Stress In America Survey 2017 shows that 99 percent of adults own an electronic device, around 86 percent own a computer, 74 percent own a smartphone, and 55 percent own a tablet. The survey also reports that between 2005 and 2015, the percentage of adults using social media skyrocketed from 7% to 65%, with usage rates of young adults aged between 18 and 29 increasing from 12 percent to 90 percent in that period.
What is information technology about and how does it affect us health wise? On an average day in the US, 65% of adults constantly check personal email, 52% and 44% check texts and social media, respectively, and 28% say the same about work emails. Rates of technology and social media use are therefore swiftly climbing. Facebook and Instagram alone boast a combined monthly user base of 2 billion people on these “digital brains”.
There’s mounting evidence that technology is having a large negative impact on users’ mental and physical health. Being overly digitally connected can cause psychological issues such as distraction, narcissism, expectation of instant gratification, and even depression. Beside affecting users’ mental health, use of technology can also have negative repercussions on physical health causing vision problems, hearing loss, back pain, and neck strain.
Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to help alleviate these health issues, like reverting back to the old days, when peoples actually communicated in a much healthier way, face to face, in person, one-on-one. I’m old enough to actually remember those days gone by, where people actually talked with each other eye-to-eye. More on that later.
The headline of a 2012 study by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project is a good summary of the current debate on how the rapid growth of technology is effecting our minds: “Millennials will benefit and suffer due to their hyper connected lives.” Pew surveyed “technology experts and stakeholders,” who generally agreed that those who best capitalize on new technologies will be able to effectively find and sift through large amounts of information as quickly as possible. On the flip side, technology may make us impatient, subject to frequent distraction, and desperate for constant entertainment.
An obsessive need to check for text messages, a desperate desire to constantly update your Facebook status, or a near-addiction to iPhone games, or text messages on your smart phone, are all manifestations of the overuse of technology. There is no denying that technology is affecting the way our minds operate. It remains to be seen exactly how technology will affect our psyches, but some changes are already starting to become apparent at a rather alarming rate.
Technology A Distraction
In a recent book, Professor Rosen of California State University, Dominguez Hills conducted a study of high school students to determine how technological distractions affected their study habits. He discovered that students could concentrate for an average of a measly three minutes at a stretch. The major culprit behind their lack of focus? Technology.
Students who tended to multitask, or, move to other tasks frequently, or to check Facebook even once during the 15-minutes they were monitored were likely to be poor students. Students reported that even without the constant reminders provided by notification lights and sounds, they were internally preoccupied with whether anyone was trying to get in touch with them or commenting on their statuses.
Furthermore, a team of Australian researchers conducted two studies and found that compulsive internet use by adolescents leads to poorer mental health. A University of Michigan study also found that Facebook use led to a decrease in happiness and overall life satisfaction. In another Swansea University found that heavy internet users experience psychological symptoms of withdrawal when they stop using digital devices.
Those studies raise some interesting points on what is information technology about, but it also raise more questions, as well. For example, does technology have the same impact on children, adolescents and adults? Or is it more detrimental to the developing brain? How much screen time is too much screen time? And are some forms of technology, like social media, worse than other kinds, like answering work emails?
Need For Instant Gratification
As our technology moves faster, our patience grows thinner. A huge study from UMass Amherst, which surveyed 6.7 million users, showed that viewers tend to abandon online videos if they take more than 2 seconds to load. Most users stay on a single web page long enough to read only 20% of the text on that page, according to a survey by the Nielsen Norman Group.
On an emotional level, posting a Facebook status, a tweet, or an Instagram photo feeds on and reinforces our need for instant approving feedback. Becoming too used to instant gratification in the virtual world can lead to impatience, poor choices and major frustrations in the real world.
Despite its potential to help us make connections, technology can also encourage and provide an outlet for a self-centered mentality, or narcissism. A study from the University of Western Illinois investigated the relationship between two different aspects of narcissism, self-promotors and entitlers.
Self-pomotor were those who constantly updated their Facebook account updating statuses and photos. Entitlers were likely to exhibit anti-social Facebook behaviors, such as reacting angrily to critical comments and posting in ways that sought support, without supporting their friends in turn. If you find yourself constantly changing your profile picture and getting upset when fewer than 50 people like your status, it may be time to take a long hard look in the mirror and reconsider your behavior. Narcissists like staring at mirrors, anyway.
A study of Chinese youths with Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) showed that internet-addicted adolescents tended to have reduced gray matter and white matter in key areas of the brain associated with cognitive function and goal-directed behavior. The damage varied according to the duration of the subjects’ internet addiction, which may indicate that the negative effects of the disorder are progressive. Another concern is trying to do too many things at one time and not being very effective in any of them. Could we be losing the ability to have that focused concentration because we have embraced too much multitasking?
Lack Of Sleep
Is it difficult for you to fall asleep at night? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. While only about 10 percent of the U.S. population experiences chronic insomnia, more than one-quarter of us report poor sleep habits, according to the C.D.C. And unfortunately, scrolling through your news feed in bed at night isn’t going to improve your sleep habits. One study found that 44% of cell phone owners keep their phones next to their bed at night so they wouldn’t miss anything. In a 2011 poll, 95% of adults said they regularly use devices right before bedtime. The bright blue light your phone emits can throw off your body’s biological clock called “the circadian rhythm”. The bright lights actually reduce levels of melatonin, which regulates sleep.
Too Much Sitting
From the invention of standing desks in offices to Apple Watches that send “It’s time to stand up” reminders, it is clear that Americans are sitting down far longer than they should be. In 2013, the American Medical Association deemed sitting for prolonged periods of time, especially in work settings, as harmful to our health. Employers need to do a better job of being mindful of the health of their workers when they sit for hours in front of a computer screen. Employees also need to take it upon themselves to get up every hour from their desks and walk around, or at least do some leg exercise at their desk.
When we’re using technology, we generally aren’t exercising either. That’s why there’s an increasing body of research linking overuse of digital devices to a drop in exercise and fitness levels. Americans got 32% less exercise and were 43% more sedentary in 2009 than in 1965, researchers found. And in a study of college students, those who used their smartphones the most had poorer results on cardiorespitory fitness tests than the ones who didn’t.
Hands and Fingers Strain and Poor Posture
Repetitive strain injury is caused by the small movements you make typing away on your computer or cellphone. Some symptoms include discomfort, stiffness, soreness in your hands, wrists, and fingers. Not only do computers and devices encourage more sedentary behavior among users, but they also frequently lead to poor posture, neck strain, and back issues. Repeated over long periods of time, this sort of behavior can lead to chronic pain and discomfort that isn’t easily reversed.
In addition to physical harm, technology can also do damage to your mental health. “The internet and social media can influence suicide-related behavior. Greenfield, a distinguished professor of psychology and director of the UCLA Children’s Digital Media Center, was most concerned about the social costs of our obsession with digital technology. She cited a recent study conducted by her center that found that sixth graders’ ability to read emotions from nonverbal cues improved significantly in just five days when they went to a camp that focused on face-to-face interactions.
She also pointed to another of their studies that found that college students felt most “bonded” to their friends when they talked face to face, and most distant from them when they text-messaged. And, yet, of course, these students still most often communicated by text. “Being able to understand the feelings of other people is extremely important to society,” Greenfield said. “I think we can all see a reduction in that.”
In the United States, adults spend an average of ten hours and 39 minutes consuming media, according to a report by the Neilsen Company. This excessive screen time and infrequent exercise is linked to obesity. But, the screen isn’t the only problem. “Technology has a huge impact on our nutrition,” the video states. While watching TV we are often distracted, which leads us to mindlessly eat, and the bright lights decreases levels of leptin, which makes you feel full, so, you feel hungry, and increases levels of ghrelin, which makes you feel hungry too.
Steps To A Healthy Lifestyle
Think you’re leading a healthy lifestyle? Aside from occasionally veering off the path, most of us think we do a fair job of maintaining our health with good, or at least OK, eating habits and some physical activity whenever we manage to fit it in. But is that enough to be considered “healthy?”
According to a recent study, very few adults actually meet the criteria for a healthy lifestyle. The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, showed that only 3% of American adults got a perfect score on what the authors say are the four basic criteria for healthy living. Just 13.8% met three of the criteria; 34.2% met only two criteria. Women scored slightly better than men.
See how well you measure up on the researchers’ four keys to healthfulness:
Do You Smoke? Everybody knows smoking is bad for your health. Nouf said.
Are You Able To Maintain A Healthy Weight? A healthy weight is a BMI of 18 to 25. Can you get there, or, are you able to successfully lose weight to attain a healthy weight?
Do You Eat A Well-Balanced Nutritious Diet? Do you eat a diet high in lean protein, high in fiber, low in fats, and at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day?
Do You Get Moderate Physical Activity? Do you exercise at least 30 minutes a day, at least 5 times a week?
More Steps To A Healthy Lifestyle
While those four habits are indisputably important for a healthy lifestyle, some may argue that more factors should be taken into consideration. What would be on your list?
Take Technology Breaks. Divorce yourself from your digital devices during certain periods of the day, such as while you’re eating, or taking a break out in nature, or at least two hours before bedtime.
Get Restful Sleep. Well-rested people not only cope better with stress, but may also have better control of their appetites. Research has shown that a lack of sleep (less than 7 hours) can put our hunger hormones” out of balance — and possibly trigger overeating.
Do Something You Enjoy. Smile and laugh out loud several times a day, to keep you grounded and helps you cope with situations that would otherwise make you crazy. Read the comics, watch a sitcom, or tell jokes to bring out those happy feelings.
Be Mindful. Meditate, pray, practice yoga, or otherwise, find solace, for at least 10-20 minutes each day. Contemplation is good for your soul, helps you cope with the demands of daily life, and may even help lower your blood pressure, when you relieve stress.
Enjoy Regular Family Meals. This allows parents to serve as good role models, will promote more nutritious eating, and sets the stage for lively, in-person, conversations. Being connected to family and/or friends is a powerful aspect of a healthy life.
Participate In Pet Time. Spend daily outdoor time with your pet(s), because the benefits will be twofold, bringing you back to earth and in healthy touch with the natural world, and joy and appreciation of the unconditional love of your pet(s).
Employ Positive Mental Attitude. Do your best to look at life as “the glass is half full, not half empty. You must believe in yourself, have good support systems, and think positively to succeed.
Use Unique Gifts and Talents. Use your talents and gifts to the best of your ability so they will benefit not only you, but everyone around you.
Maintain A Healthy Environment. Provide your home with a state-of-the-art water purification system and air purification system, to assure your home environment is the healthiest it can be for you and your family.
Being Grateful. Maintaining a compassionate mindset is another way of enhancing your health and well being. Judging others can cause you to place judgment on yourself, and that type of negative internal dialogue can be exhausting. Being open-minded an understanding other people’s beliefs and opinions, also prevents you from being judgmental.
Supplementing With A Natural Super Food Adaptogen. For optimum health and well being, routinely use organically certified, nutritious, well-balanced, whole food, Peruvian Maca, as added-assurance your body is getting the very best in natural healthy supplementation.
Now that you know what is information technology about and how it can effect your health and your family’s health negatively, you have a choice to make. Do you take charge of your life, and be mindful of small behavior changes that can make your lifestyle a healthier one?
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