A few years ago, I was at the grocery store walking down the aisles when I started dropping things. I couldn’t get a solid grip on anything and boxes and cans kept slipping from my hand.
By the time I got to the cash register to check out, I was getting worried. Items fell from my hand and bounced on the conveyor belt. I went to hand the cashier my debit card to pay, and it slipped from my fingers. What was wrong with me?
Then I looked down at my hand. I was holding my iPhone. No wonder I couldn’t hold onto anything!
How often do you carry your smartphone with you? How many times do you check your smartphone?
According to a Gallup report, 52% of smartphone owners check their phone a few times an hour or more. If you’re like me, you don’t even think twice about how dependent you are on your smartphone–or you laugh about it.
Is it a bad thing for us to constantly hold our phones and depend on them for everything from reading news and emails to taking photos and video to looking things up on Google? I love my smartphone as much as the next girl, but doing anything mindlessly and carelessly can’t be a good thing.
Pain in the Smartphone
Using our smartphones without considering what we’re doing at the moment can be hazardous to our health–literally. A few effects of too much smartphone use include:
Text Neck. Yes, it really is a thing. A neck surgeon in New York City noted that when we bow our heads to view our smartphone screens, we put over 60 pounds of pressure on our necks.
Eye Strain. Headaches, sore eyes, double vision, dizziness–all of these symptoms, also known as “Computer Vision Syndrome, result from reading on small screens.
Disturbed Sleep. Studies show exposure to the blue light from smartphone screens after nine at night disturbs our sleep and can affect our melatonin levels, our naturally produced “sleep” hormone.
“Technoference.” Our attention is disrupted by our smartphones and can interfere with our relationships, especially when we half listen to the people around us.
“Content Fried.” Okay, this isn’t a technical term, but it describes the exhaustion we feel after consuming a constant barrage of content and messages coming at us through our phones.
If we were talking about a hard drug, we’d all say, “Just don’t do it.” But talk about “abusing technology” or “the dangers of smartphones,” and we roll our eyes.
Getting Good Tech Habits
Getting into any habit, good or bad, takes triggers, reminders and repetition. Here are some quick tips to shift how you think about and use your smartphone.
- Turn It Off. Putting your smartphone in your bag or pocket still allows notification pings and the buzz of vibrate to interrupt your meal or conversation. Turn it off completely. The world will still be there when you turn it back on.
- Set up a Charging Station. I put a charging station by the front door in my house. My family now walks through the entire house to get to our devices instead of reaching for them compulsively.
- Buy an Alarm Clock. If you’re waking up to the alarm on your phone, temptation is too great to check messages the moment you wake up. Get an actual alarm clock or zen clock for a gentler wake up.
- No Electronics in the Bedroom. I fail at this often, but I try to think twice before playing that last game of Words with Friends in bed.
Getting a grip on how we use technology is important for our physical and mental health and our relationships. Don’t be a slave to your smartphone.
Do an honest check of how you’re using–and possibly abusing–your smartphone. Take this quick quiz to start:
- I carry my phone in my hand when I’m out more often than in my bag or pocket.
- Not at all.
- I sleep with my phone on my bedside table.
- Yes, I do.
- Once in a while.
- No way.
- I wake up to the alarm on my phone.
- Of course – it’s convenient.
- Just when I need to make sure I’m up early.
- I have a regular alarm clock for that.
- I keep my phone on the table at a restaurant.
- Yes – I don’t want to miss a call or text.
- I do if I’m expecting an important call or text.
- No, I keep it in my bag.
- I bring my phone into the bathroom.
- Sure – it gives me something to read.
- Sometimes but not often.
- I turn my phone off when I’m with my family or friends.
- Rarely – someone might need to reach me.
- Usually – unless I’m taking photos.
If you answered mostly C’s, you’ve got healthy tech habits – keep it up! If you answered mostly B’s, you’re on a slippery slope to mindless tech. If you answered mostly a’s, your tech habits are unhealthy and you are probably being rude.
I’m not saying throw away your smartphone. But I am saying take some time–away from your device–to figure out how you’re using it, and how that might be affecting your health and relationships with others. Use it when you really need it, then put it away. There’s life to be lived!