By Melody Gluth
How many hours do you spend each day staring at a screen? The average person spends about 8 hours and 41 minutes each day on electronic devices. This is 20 minutes longer than the average night’s sleep.
We almost always have a device of some sort with us, whether it is a phone, a computer, a television, or something else. And with that device comes the insistence that it must be checked frequently. Even if you are not checking your messages, maybe you are playing a game or browsing through social media.
Modern technology has done wonders for the world, but it has come at a price. Our attention spans are shorter, we aren’t paying as much attention to developing meaningful relationships, and people think they should be available for others to contact them all hours of the day. Studies have shown that, although it is not quite an addiction in most cases, excessive attachment to the internet is becoming more commonplace and more problematic. A study done by the University of Marlyand in 2010 found that many students describe their attachment to the Internet as an “addiction”. In this study, students were required to go on a 24-hour media fast and write about their experience, they reported feeling bored, disconnected, uncomfortable, and anxious.
With modern technology, we never have to be bored. Often times, when I am sitting down and watching television, I will play a game on my phone. “This is ridiculous,” I tell myself as I pick up my phone to play one of the many mindless games available at the app store. I am already watching one glowing screen; so why do I need a second one? And yet, I still feel compelled to.
There are more immediate dangers, such as texting while driving, but there are also other consequences to this new age of technology. People no longer have to engage as strongly in social connections. Instead, they can just check-in every now and then, all while keeping their brain and body engaged in a different task. Physical repercussions are eye strain, other problems with eyes, and the stress on the neck column as people bend their neck to look down at their phone.
Multi-tasking has also increased, thanks to the advent of mobile devices. It almost never boosts productivity and instead acts as a form of procrastination. It distracts us from what’s important and inhibits the formation of short-term memories.
Another heavy cost is sleep deprivation. How many people stay up into the late hours of the night because they are browsing the internet or on a Netflix binge? We were meant to sleep at night, and, due to technology, many people are not meeting that requirement.
If you have trouble going to sleep at night, try taking a technology hiatus for about 15 to 30 minutes. There is actually a scientific explanation for this. Photoreceptors in the retina sense light and dark, which signal the brain about the time of day. The brain can then align our circadian rhythms to the proper day-night cycle. So, if we are spending time in front of a glowing screen, our eyes are sensing light. We are tricking our brain into thinking that the sun is still out and it is not yet night time. Thus, when we lay down to sleep, our brain is not ready to go to sleep yet because it thinks it is still day time.
We could all use a break from technology. I remember in one of my classes, my professor asked the class who could spend a week without their phone. Two people raised their hands. We have become so reliant on these devices to keep us connected and constantly entertained. We forget what it is like to be without technology, and some of us are afraid to spend time without it.According to the Mobile Mindset Study done in 2012 showed, 73 percent of Americans would panic if they were forced to disconnect from their cell phone for an extended period of time.
It is important to take a break every now and then for mental health and for a good night’s sleep. Spend some time away from technology, get enough sleep, and chat with people face to face. Grab a coffee and have a real conversation through verbal language, not texts.