How much do we love our smartphones? We love them so much, it hurts. Really hurts, physically and emotionally, according to health and mental health experts who have identified several new phenomena linked directly humans’ avid use of — and overdependence on — mobile devices. These include “technoference” on the relationship front, and “text neck” and “text claw” in the anatomy department. To wit:
The “Technoference” Dilemma
French philosophical thinker and moralist Jean de la Bruyere once said, “The sweetest of all sounds is that of the voice of the woman we love.” But what if that woman is Siri, or someone else on the receiving end of a non-voice text message? According to a late December 2014 study titled “Technoference,” published in Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 70% of women believe modern technology is interfering with their romantic relationships. That includes 62% of women who accuse male partners of paying attention to smartphones while the two casually hang out, to 25% who claim their significant other texts or emails someone else during a partner-to-partner, face-to-face conversation. Men are not fully to blame, however. Both genders say they have paid attention to their phones simultaneously during dinner. C’est tres romantique, non?
“Text Neck,” The Latest Fad You Don’t Want to Have
When you don’t understand it, technology can be a pain in the neck. And when you do understand it, it can still be a pain in the neck — literally. According to one Dr. Kenneth Hansraj, the human head typically weighs 10-12 pounds, a heft that can increase from 27-60 pounds as the head angles downward to look at a smartphone or tablet. The result? Stress, and a lot of it. Today’s smartphone user typically spends an average 2-4 hours a day with their phone, and usually in head-down position. That adds up to 700 to 1,400 per-person hours a year of excess stress on the cervical spine, researchers claim. Aren’t mobile devices supposed to make life less stressful?
Smartphone Symptoms: “Tech Claw”
The condition might not appear on WebMD, but that doesn’t mean “text claw” is not a real disease. Orthopedic surgeon Aaron Daluiski, M.D., a hand/extremity specialist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center in NYC, says chronic cell phone use can create tendon or muscle pain in the fingers. And while the thumb does most of the work, the pain can radiate from the hand into the wrist and forearm. So although you may think you’re just sending a text message, your joints and muscles are actually getting a workout — and it might be time for a water break.
The body-technology interaction, often with painful side effects, is nothing new. Nintendo’s 1983 invention ushered in “nintendinitis,” a repetitive stress injury caused by excessive gaming. The release of the Blackberry brought “Blackberry thumb,” numbness, pain or fatigue in the thumb from keypad typing.
A little bit of common sense and a nod to simple ergonomics can help prevent these kinds of technology-related aches and pains. Take frequent breaks from your tablet. Raise the smartphone so that it’s more directly in line with your eyes to give your neck a break as you type, text and send. And during dinner or an intimate conversation, tuck your phone away…and ignore the buzzes and beeps for at least a few minutes, okay?
What about you? Has technology had a noticeable impact on your emotional or physical well-being? Is your smartphone permanently attached to your body, and is that a good thing? We’d like to know. Share your thoughts in the comments below.