But back to my point: After delving deep into the abyss of likes and hashtags, suddenly I came up for air—with an intense craving for avocado toast. I looked at the clock and realized an hour had passed by. An entire hour. I was left wondering where the time had gone, how I’d spent 60 minutes scrolling and following, barely taking a breath and certainly not taking a break. (And then I went to make that toast, obviously.)
If only the effects of engaging in social media, and the vast universe of apps, emails and texting, began and ended with avocado toast. Sadly, all of that time spent in front of screens is harming our health, both physical or mental, in both small and life-threatening ways alike.
No need to take my word (or your tense neck and shoulders) for it; there’s plenty of science that points to the unfortunate ramifications of too much screen time on the mind and body. To wit: In 2018, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that minimizing social media use adds up to a significant decrease in loneliness and depression. That same year, a study in the journal Scientific Reports pointed to blue light exposure from screens killing photoreceptor cells in your eyes, which can lead to macular degeneration. Recently, research in the journal Brain Imaging and Behavior linked media multitasking (when you switch back and forth between devices, such as going from your cell to your laptop) to a greater chance of developing food cravings and a decreased inability to resist them, which could up your obesity risk.
A 2009 analysis from the University of California Los Angeles found a correlation between the increase of the digi-verse and a decrease in critical thinking and analysis (though the upside was an improvement in our visual literacy). A small (19-person) study out of the Radiological Society of North America in 2017 discovered that tech– obsessed teens demonstrate an imbalance in their brains, not to mention a markedly higher level of depression, anxiety, insomnia and impulsivity, compared to the control group.
Sadly, that’s just the tip of the iceberg, with studies suggesting that too much screen time might be connected to other health issues, including carpal tunnel, back and neck pain, migraines, poor sleep quality, low self-esteem, even suicide.
So how do we thrive in a culture that pretty much requires us to log on to our devices? Plug into these tips and tricks from our panel of experts.
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September - October 2019