It's common these days for people of all ages to say they are "addicted" to their phones, computers, or the Internet as though it's an obvious exaggeration, or at least no big deal. But digital addiction might not be as harmless as we think. Although digital addiction is not yet considered a clinical disorder, here are a few very real ways our obsession with devices is negatively impacting our lives and what to do about it.
Hand cramps, poor posture and eye strain are just a few of the real physical side effects of too much texting or screen time.
Solution: Ergonomics changed the way we think about health and safety in the workplace, but there's no need to wait around for a similar movement to teach us how to sit up straight while checking our Facebook accounts. Practice good posture when using your laptop or any other device, and if your hand starts cramping or your eyes are in pain from too much typing or texting, for goodness' sake, take a break!
It's tough to feel like you matter when the person you're with is constantly checking his or her phone. A 2013 study suggested that just having a cell phone in view (even if it's turned off) negatively impacts meaningful conversation between two people. If it's likely you'll be interrupted at any moment, why get into something important?
Solution: Show your friends and family they matter by putting the phone/tablet/laptop away, out of sight, and turned off (no notifications) during mealtimes, important conversations, and other quality time together. If you happen to be the recipient of this kind of behavior, be honest about how it makes you feel, and ask your friend to consider unplugging every once in awhile.
Most states and many cities have banned texting or talking on handheld devices while driving, with good reason. Every year, thousands of people are killed and hundreds of thousands more are injured in accidents involving a distracted driver.
Solution: Never text and drive, and avoid talking on the phone while driving. If you're the passenger of a driver who is texting, speak up and don't allow the behavior to continue.
It's been well documented that the artificial light from our phones and tablets disrupts the release of melatonin in our bodies, making it more difficult for us to fall asleep.
Solution: Install a blue light filter on your computer and other devices (these are free and can be easily found online), or better yet, don't use any devices for a few hours before bedtime.
Although in some ways technology has made us more connected than ever, staying plugged in online without nurturing our "real" relationships can have disastrous consequences. Depression, anxiety, and loneliness are all potential side effects of digital addiction.
Solution: Promote your mental and emotional health by nurturing your non-virtual relationships before the virtual ones through regular face-to-face interaction. Limit social media time and try not to just "hang out" on sites like Facebook and Instagram. Finally, if you feel worse after checking social media, consider deleting your accounts!
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