By Tristan Brooks
We all know the wonderful things technology has been responsible for around the world, from life saving medical advancements to getting education to the hands of those who need it most in developing countries. I’m sure you’ve also heard of the bad things that come with our near-dependence on technology, we all have. I’m here to summarize these things for you. I won’t be spending too much time on any one piece, but I will be linking sources and articles so that you can read more, if you’re interested.
With the world we live in now, what with a quarter of the FWCS student body being online-only, it’s good to know the health effects and prevention techniques. So let’s get started!
Physical health is one of the biggest issues that come about from overuse of technology. Eyestrain is one of the most prominent issues that people discuss when mentioning this topic. Bloodshot eyes, aversion to natural light, trouble focusing on objects, general eye pain – we’ve all experienced one or all of these symptoms. These symptoms stem from extended screen time, screen glare and brightness, viewing a screen from too close or too far a way, poor sitting posture (yes, this can affect your eyes), and underlying vision issues.
Other issues like difficult focusing on important tasks, poor posture (“Text Neck”), and problems sleeping stem from this use of technology. With the ability to do multiple things at once and global communication at your fingertips, it can be hard to get things done. Procrastination is a big problem in High Schools today, at least I can relate to this. With extended time sitting and looking at screens, sitting the wrong way for too long can cause pain in the short term, and musculoskeletal problems in the long run. Additionally, the blue light found in most phone and computer screens can disrupt your natural “circadian rhythm,” which you most likely know as your inner clock.
Living a Lie on Social Media
TW: DEPRESSION/ANXIETY, BULLYING
While most of the adverse effects are largely physical, some major psychological issues may arise from extended technology use or technology addiction. Depression and anxiety has become increasingly common in teenagers and children, and this could be due, at least in part, to overuse or a dependence on technology. In fact, social media use is seen as the biggest cause of this under the technology umbrella. According to NPR, 84% of teenagers own their own smartphone or other device.¹ Almost all (almost) of these teenagers have access to social media of some sort (social media being YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook).
Why is social media such a big problem? The whole purpose of social media is to keep up with other people’s lives, and to inform people of our own. The best social media users can make their life seem perfect from the casual viewer. Timing, captions, and picture quality all go into making a great social media post, but these “perfect views” of their life can have an emotional toll on them and on their followers. As you grow a big follower/subscriber base, you start feeling pressure to keep up your façade. Keeping up this perfect image, especially if it is anything but, can make your life a lot more stressful. And for those who don’t have this large base of followers, you’re scrolling around looking at people who do. You start to feel like your life isn’t good enough, and that you should be doing all these cool things like travelling to Europe, or getting the “perfect body.” I could go on…
Social media can also influence your social life. A 2017 study in young adults aged 19–32 years found that people with higher social media use were more than three times as likely to feel socially isolated than those who did not use social media as often.² Again, this is largely in part to living a lie on social media. While social media is intended to bring the world to you, it ends up creating a disconnect between you and some of your closest friends.
Keep in mind that these mental effects may not impact everyone, and your mileage may vary. It is important to remember this and recognize when you may be in danger of living a lie.
Save Yourself from the Tides of Tech
What can you do to help yourself stave off the dangers of technology?
Eye Strain/Eye Problems: Many devices come with a “Night Mode” or “Blue Light Filter,” and while this doesn’t protect you completely, it’s still a good start. All these options do is filter out the circadian-disrupting blue light. At first it’ll be extremely noticeable – your screen will look like it smokes 3 packs of cigarettes a day – but after a few minutes, you won’t even realize it is on. Additionally, turning your phone off (completely!) will help reset your eyes before bed. On the bright side, if you turn off the blue light filter and set your phone to max brightness in the morning, this could actually help RESET your circadian rhythm. The sun emits a lot of blue light, and so your body relies on this to know when it is morning. So blasting your eyebrows off with the power of the sun can offer an easy way to trick your body into waking up. I suggest being careful, and don’t do it if it hurts at all.
Other physical problems: Practicing good posture when on the computer or phone can help tremendously by not only saving you from years of endless back pain, but it can also strengthen your core, shoulder, and neck muscles. You should also practice the simple 20-20-20 rule. It goes like this: After 20 minutes of screen time, take a 20 second break to look at something 20 feet away. Make sure you’re focusing on that object, and not just staring blankly. This helps reset the muscles responsible for focusing and eyesight, and can drastically reduce eye strain. Bonus points if you do this outdoors on a sunny day. Natural light helps infinitely more. Also, you should STRETCH, STRETCH, STRETCH. Even writing this right now my hand is starting to hurt, so you need to stretch out your muscles even if they don’t feel tired. Doing this can reduce your chances of RSI, Arthritis, and many other painful experiences.
Depression/Anxiety, and Isolation: The only suggestions and tips I could find for this were to simply limit the time you spend on Social Media. IOS/Apple phones have had the “screen time” app for years, and Android/Samsung recently came out with “Routines”. Both of these systems offer a way to limit the time spent on social media or other specific apps. Most importantly, you need to know when you’re getting sucked in to social media addiction, and know when to step back and smell the flowers. Time spent outdoors has the opposite effect of extended tech use, it can actually reduce the chances of experiencing depression or anxiety.
I hope this article helps you take care of yourself. You matter to someone, and I can guarantee that someone doesn’t want to see you in pain. While we’re all legally required to stare at computers for 6 hours a day, you might as well stay healthy while doing it. So go out and climb some trees, exercise, or spend time with your friends (wear your mask!).