Cell phones, over the last couple of years, have taken over our lives. They are by our side 24/7. If we ever leave them in the room next to us, we feel bare and connectionally lost. This constant need to have and check our cell phones has been described by Dr. Larry Rosen as the “iDisorder.” It changes your brain’s ability to process information and your ability to relate to the world due to the constant use of media and technology. As a result, it leads to “… signs and symptoms of physiological disorders – such as stress, sleeplessness and a compulsive need to check in with all of your technology,” according to Dr. Rosen.
Digging deeper, technology affects our mental and physical health in several ways. I am not referring to texting and driving or walking into objects while absorbed by our phones, although those do cause harm. The constant use of technology tends to harm us in less obvious ways.
Technology Affects Sleep
These are the cold hard facts. The screens on cell phones, computers, tablets and televisions radiate a blue light that restrains the production of the hormone melatonin. The melatonin in one’s body controls their sleep as well as their wake cycle also known as circadian rhythm. Reducing the production of this hormone makes it harder to fall and stay asleep. This is why the sleeping pill, melatonin, is used to help. It provides your body with more of those needed hormones.
Not only does technology reduce melatonin, but it keeps your mind moving as a result of the lack of melatonin. For some, it may seem like a good idea to answer a few texts before bed or unwind by watching a movie, but these activities do the exact opposite for your mind. The technology you use activates your brain and tricks it into thinking it needs to stay awake. This isn’t healthy because your brain needs you to sleep because that’s when it sorts out daily events. It needs time to unwind from the technology it’s been surrounded by all day and have the chance to file away everything else.
Technology Increases Stress
According to Dr. David Shanley, an anxiety therapist, British researchers are hypothesizing that “perhaps people become so used to and even dependent on receiving constant messages, email, and tweets, that the moment they don’t receive one, their anxiety increases.” This is also connected to the constant stress of photo taking and posting on social media. When one experiences an activity or event, it seems that the phone is constantly in hand, at the ready to capture the best photo or video. Dr. Shanley continues by sharing his concern, “I wonder if people are actually still deriving the same pleasure they would out of just enjoying the experience they are having in the moment. Or, are they instead feeling stressed about how many people “like” their photo on Facebook? What does it mean if no one comments on it?”
This situation may seem silly when written down so plainly but it is a common emotion all media users share. In this day and age, we have allowed media to dictate what is worldly acceptable about one’s personal life. We now post to please others, not ourselves, and when it is not as accepted by others the way we would like, our stress and anxiety levels increases due to the lack of praise.
Technology Causes Obesity
It is no surprise that technology is linked to laziness. Whether using a computer, television, tablet or cell phone, the most common position to use these items is sitting down. Lack of physical movement is common when using technology. This becomes a problem when the amount of time an individual spends on their technology per day is revealed. In October of 2013, USC released a report that shows that “Americans consume ‘an enormous amount’ of media via television, radio, phone and computer, amounting to an average of 63 gigabytes per person per day … All told, total U.S. media consumption reached 1.46 trillion hours in 2012, an average of 13.6 hours per person per day, a year-over-year increase of 5 percent.”
Linked to laziness, technology has made food more diverse and suitable for individuals. David Cutler, Edward Glaeser and Jesse Shapiro, a team of economists from the Institute of Economic Research at Harvard University, came forward with a theory in 2003 regarding the part technology plays in obesity. Their theory proposes that “advances in technology have made food more varied and convenient, so much so that our rather feeble will-power is unable to cope with the temptation.” Their study also suggested that “…food producers’ innovations were the direct cause of obesity.”
In 2012, economist Anusuya Chatter Jee and Ross DeVol, chief research officer at the Milken Institute, studied the economies and obesity rates for 1988-2009 in 27 countries. They found that “for every 10-percentage point increase in information communications technology investment as a share of gross capital formation, the obesity rate climbs 1.4 percentage points on average – or roughly 4.2 million people in a nation the size of the United States…”
The use of technology has made everyday life more convenient for everyone. Unfortunately, as a result, it has led to trouble sleeping, created unnecessary stress for its users and has increased laziness. It would appear that technology is just as harmful as it is helpful.