Technology addiction is running rampant, but unlike other addictions—like alcohol or cigarettes—many westerners need to use technology on a daily basis. It might be a requirement of their job, or it might be a safety issue (such as ensuring everyone in the family has a smartphone in case of emergencies). This means that managing technology usage is key because it can’t be avoided.
More and more, studies have shown that increased digital use affects your mental health. It’s been shown that the more time you spend on social media, the more depressed you become. It sounds counterintuitive, but when you’re constantly bombarded with filtered Instagram-perfect models and only the highlights of your friends’ lives, it’s pretty easy to start doubting yourself.
Limiting your daily technology use is a goal almost anyone can undertake. It can be a New Year’s resolution, and (funnily enough) there are plenty of apps to help you out. Here are just a few reasons you should think about minimizing how much technology you use.
Some studies have linked high social media usage to narcissism (which is a learned disorder). Nobody is born a narcissist, but it can be developed depending on environmental factors. This is no surprise. Narcissism can also be unlearned, but that will require dismantling the factors that encouraged it. By minimizing social media usage, you may be able to undo the causes of narcissism as well as a host of other mental disorders.
Studies have indicated that social media usage is also linked to loneliness. One of the most surprising of studies has shown that the longer a person spends on social media, the lonelier they are. This shows that “social” media isn’t as social as we think. It can’t replace real-life interactions, though humans try to use it for just that purpose.
- Technology can cause carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel syndrome is increasingly a cause of workers’ compensation claims. It happens when nerves are compressed in the carpal tunnel (wrist). This can be caused by just about any repetitive stress injury, including working on a keyboard. It’s also relatively easy to fix, but only if you change the cause. This can be done by both ergonomics and simply typing less (if typing is the cause). If left untreated, it can lead to permanent and painful nerve damage.
- Texting thumb is now a thing. Kind of like carpal tunnel syndrome, overusing your thumb can lead to pain and numbness. This isn’t a huge deal if it’s addressed—again by ergonomics and reducing the usage. You may have noticed pain in your thumb if you text regularly, and this is a common complaint amongst those who spend a lot of time on their smartphone. There aren’t as many ergonomic adjustments that can be made with thumbs as with the wrist, so less technology usage is key.
- Eye strain has been linked to excessive technology use. Although some tools purport to help with eye strain, such as special glasses and screens, results are a bit inconclusive. The best thing you can do is reduce usage and take frequent breaks.
- Technology can get in the way of relationships. Anyone who’s spent a dinner with someone on their phone knows how annoying it is. The majority of humans can’t really multi-task. Instead, they try (poorly) to quickly switch back and forth between tasks. This can lead to arguments and ultimately a break in relationships. Try taking a break from the screen and putting in some quality time.
- Adults are modeling poor behavior. “Do as I say, not as I do” is a strategy that’s sure to fail. If you have children looking to you for guidance, remember that you’re modeling the behavior they will follow. If you don’t want the children in your life to be glued to their screens, you also need to commit to tech-free zones.
- Screen time interrupts sleep. Good sleep hygiene always includes not sitting in front of a screen at least two hours before bedtime. This complements every other good habit including sleeping in a dark room and not having any technology visible. Blue light notoriously disrupts sleep, and blue light exists in nearly every technology. Proper sleep is also linked to health in every other capacity, and Americans are chronically fatigued. If you want to improve every aspect of your life and health, start with sleep. If it seems impossible to avoid screens two hours before bedtime, you might want to consider if you have a tech addiction.
It's impossible for most westerners to avoid technology entirely for even one day. Be realistic in your goals and start weaning yourself off slowly. Aim for a reduction in tech, not avoiding it entirely. Pinpoint a few of your trouble areas and tackle one at a time. Cognitive reconditioning can be a huge help by being consciously aware of how often you reach for technology and why. Ask yourself what will happen if you don’t check your phone every time you hear a notification. You’re likely missing out more in real life than with whatever is happening on your app.
About Rachel O’Conner
Rachel is a freelance content writer located in San Diego, California. Over the course of her career, she has written a variety of health, parenting, and fitness articles. In her free time, she enjoys running along the beach with her two puppies and practicing yoga.