Published on: 10/17/18Over the last 25 years, our lives and our society have changed beyond recognition. Since the dawn of the internet in the early 1990’s, our planet has undergone rapid digital technology advancements that few could ever have imagined.
While the ability to talk to strangers in the far reaches of the planet on a device the size of your wallet, while simultaneously tweeting or Instagramming pictures of your dinner may seem like all fun and games, the consequences of our rapidly evolving digital world are becoming clearer with more and more physical and mental health problems being reported across the globe.
Even though the benefits of digital technology are increasing daily, the potential consequences of our subsequent overuse of these technologies are far less discussed.
Patricia Greenfield, a distinguished professor of psychology and director of the UCLA Children’s Digital Media Center explained her concerns about the social costs of our increasing obsession with digital technology and smartphones.
She cited a recent study conducted by the UCLA center that revealed that sixth grader’s ability to interpret a variety of emotions from nonverbal cues actually improved significantly following just 5 days of attending a camp specifically focused on face-to-face interactions.
“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.”
Indeed we can. How many times have you been in a public space and noticed almost everyone staring down at their phone? Maybe you didn’t notice because you were too busy looking at your own phone, but joking aside, it is remarkable to witness the changes in our social behaviour that have occurred as a result of these little black boxes we carry with us everywhere.
On so many occasions, I have been on the subway or bus and noticed that 90% or more of the people are sitting silently, staring at their phones.
You might be thinking “Sure, there are a lot of very busy people”. Well, without appearing overly voyeuristic, I can report that a lot of these people are indeed very busy. Well, if you consider busy to be a euphemism for mindlessly and relentlessly scrolling through a variety of increasingly banal social media content.
What happened to our ability to sit and just, think. Reflect a little. Look out the window? Ok, maybe not on the subway, but you get my point. For too many of us, these devices have become an obsession, that many even admit to sleeping with.
It comes as little surprise, but we now face a deluge of information on a daily basis that has increased exponentially in recent years.
The Daily Telegraph reported in 2011 that as a result of the internet, 24-hour television and smartphones, we now receive five times more information on a daily basis than we did in 1986 while our sharing of information thanks to email, twitter, and social networking has increased by nearly 200 times.
The report indicated that the average person now produces nearly six newspapers worth of information on a daily basis compared with just 2 and a half pages per day, a quarter of a century earlier. And that was in 2011.
With our addiction to smartphones now fully established, one wonders at just how much information (pointless, fake or otherwise)we are consuming and sharing on a daily basis.
So what are the potential health effects of these technological trappings?
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Less Sleep = More ProblemsIt is thought that that one of the biggest changes we have seen in recent years has been the reduction in the number of hours we are now sleeping every night.
We have previously reported that the average American is now sleeping on average just 6.8 hours per night, a full hour less than in 1942.
Long-term sleep deprivation is said to be at the root of many chronic diseases and conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and depression while a short-term lack of sleep is one of the main contributors to both vehicle crashes and work-related accidents.
It is also thought that the bright light emitted from our devices causes a reduction in levels of the hormone melatonin, which actually helps to regulate sleep, and also decreases leptin, which can help us to feel full after eating.
Additionally, the bright light increases ghrelin, which makes you feel hunger.
It is thought that the more time we spend with computers and phones increases the likelihood of weight gain, not merely because we are more sedentary, but because it also affects our sleep cycles.
It may seem obvious, but one of the most common concerns associated with our overuse of technology is that regarding our eyesight.
Many have wondered if our devices are actually causing eye strain and according to The Vision Council, they are.
The council state that "Many individuals suffer from physical eye discomfort after screen use for longer than two hours at a time."
According to optical chemistry research recently conducted at The University of Toledo, Blue light from digital devices transforms vital molecules in the eye’s retina into cell killers.
The study, which was recently published in the journal Scientific Reports, states the process outlined in the study leads to age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in the United States.
Macular degeneration is an incurable eye disease that results in significant vision loss, usually in people aged either in their 50’s or 60’s.
Dr. Ajith Karunarathne, assistant professor in the UT Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, explained: “We are being exposed to blue light continuously, and the eye’s cornea and lens cannot block or reflect it. It’s no secret that blue light harms our vision by damaging the eye’s retina.”
Clearly, there is an increased risk of eye-damage when we over-expose our eyes to the screens that seem to dominate our everyday lives.
Going forward, there is a lot we can do to combat the potentially negative effects of digital technology. Clearly, so much of the technology we now use has helped to improve our lives but sadly, when we allow these devices to dominate those lives, there are many potential consequences that could lie in store for us further down the line.
Surely, there are more than enough reasons for us to now reduce our usage of these devices, particularly in the case of smartphones.
As a society, it is so important that we attempt to re-discover some of the more traditional values that seem to be disappearing from our modern day culture.
We would be doing our children a favor if we could show them the benefits of increased physical interaction, and less time wasted scouring social media for instantly forgettable pieces of information, videos or gifs.
Instead of texting, try making a call, or better yet, arrange to meet someone. Not on Skype, but face-to-face. Try writing a letter to a friend. Not just an email or a text but an actual letter with a stamp and everything! Share your time, not your latest lasagne photo. Take time for nature, for family, for all of the things that make life truly beautiful and try to give your brain a rest from the digital technology that plays such a dominant role in our day-to-day lives.
Disclaimer: Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Endoca and its staff. This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or cure. Endoca CBD products have not been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).