Living in the modern age offers plenty of perks, especially when it comes to technology like smartphones and tablets. According to online marketing research company Statista, more than two billion people worldwide use smartphones to save time, communicate and gather information via the Internet. However, people often fail to recognize or acknowledge that too much technology may have harmful effects on their lives.
Over the last decade, physical interpersonal interaction has dramatically decreased. It is common to see people at public places focused more on their devices than on the people around them. This is largely due to the fact that reaching people through texting and social media has become as much a social norm as engaging with people in person. As a result, people rely on technology to communicate as much as they rely on themselves, if not moreso.
Technology use also often results in social isolation, stated by researchers at the Stanford Institute for the Quantitative Study of Society. The nature of social networking has resulted in more people being isolated in public areas instead of meeting new people eye to eye and creating meaningful relationships.
“Our dependence on gadgets has dramatically changed how we communicate and interact, and is slowly eroding some of our core principles,” says retired Sacred Hearts Academy technology teacher Randall Pong. “When we become habituated to the technological achievements of recent years, we forget to be thrilled and amazed. We lose that great sense of wonder, of awe. We take brilliance for granted and so we ignore the human elements of fortitude and intelligence,”.
In an age where wristwatches count steps and smartphones allow for instant international communication, people need to be more mindful of the medical costs of technology.
Reports from the American Osteopathic Association disclosed that doctors and chiropractors are noticing new technology-related conditions, such as ‘text neck,’ a term used to describe the neck pain and damage sustained from looking down at devices, and ‘tenosynovitis,’ which is characterized by pain that overlies the radial aspect of the wrist and stems from texting.
According to Kaiser Permanente Family Medicine doctor Peggy Later, technology has brought about unique symptoms for over users.
“It’s a connectivity that’s great for this generation,” Later says, “but it has given us some interesting conditions that we never saw before- the neck being one of them and also some problems with the fingers from repetitive motion that comes from texting.”
With the rise of the digital age, physical inactivity and sleep disorders have increased. According to studies conducted by the American Psychological Association, Americans got 32 percent less exercise and were 43 percent more sedentary in 2009 than in 1965. Another 2013 study, in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, reported that college-age students who used their smartphones the most had poorer results on cardiorespiratory fitness tests than the less addicted. The same study also found that “high frequency users were more likely to report forgoing opportunities for physical activity.”
In a 2012 study published in Current Psychiatry Reviews, Internet Addiction Disorder - which includes other forms of digital media beyond just the internet - is said to “ruin lives by causing neurological complications, psychological disturbances, and social problems.” This is largely due to the way that the internet, like other addictive stimulants, creates a high level of dependency for the user.
It is reasonable to conclude, then, that smartphones, tablets and social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram also contribute to IAD. As with any addiction, too much technological use takes a toll on people’s health when not used in moderation.
While college students generally laud the benefits of technology, some still have reservations and questions about its drawbacks.
“I feel that our technology is constantly growing and changing,” says sophomore college student and Hawai‘i resident Shannon Domingsil. “Everyone wants the newest thing. We also have social media where we can connect with people all around the world and we can see what other people are doing. This connectivity that we have to our electronics does have its drawbacks, however. I definitely feel there’s a lack of knowledge from people in what it is doing to our society.”
The benefits of technology are undeniable, but so too are the harmful side effects they create. The more developed technology becomes, the more it seems to have control over people’s lives.
Today, the use of technology is widely available and almost unanimously promoted and endorsed by high frequency users. However, these users should make themselves aware of available studies regarding the negative aspects of technology, and decrease their usage where possible.
In the end, people may find that disconnecting with their device allows them to reconnect with themselves and others, while improving their overall health in the process.