This is my confession. I am an addict. Yes, you read that right and I know for sure I am not alone.
Let me explain.
I don’t smoke, do drugs, or drink alcohol. Neither do I use opioids or painkillers. My addiction is not to any kind of substance that I ingest. My addiction is to something which seems to dominate my life. I panic when I cannot find it and it is with me everywhere I go.
Hardly 20 minutes go by when I am not either looking at it or it is trying to get my attention with catchy sounds or flashing images. It contains just about everything that’s important to me: my to-do list, contacts, reminders, cheque book, grocery list, recipes, hundreds of meme screenshots, favourite books, and even my Bible.
You’ve guessed it. I am addicted to that handy little device that a big percent of us carry with us all the time—my smartphone.
I thought I might be an addict when I saw a notification that popped up on my phone one day, which said: “Your screen time was up … percent last week for a total of …. Hours ….. Minutes.” Actually, it is a bit embarrassing to reveal the actual numbers.
Somewhat alarmed, I did a bit of research, and found an article titled 15 Signs You’re Addicted to Your Smartphone. Thankfully, not all of the signs described me but far too many of them did.
This was a serious wake-up call that something needed to change. I needed a digital detox. Learning about technology addiction, I realised that not only was my smartphone potentially having negative consequences on almost every aspect of my life, but it was also consuming my time.
There’s no question that technology has revolutionised our lives—for the most part in a positive way. But the advent of digital technology, including smartphones, the internet, and social media, has created some challenges, which to some extent can affect our physical health, our emotional health, our brains, and even our relationships.
How digital devices affect your body
Mayo Clinic notes that the excessive use of digital devices can cause digital eyestrain. The reasons for this condition are that we blink less while using devices, we are affected by the glare that comes from the device, or we view the screens at a less-than-ideal distance. Digital eyestrain can lead to watery and itchy eyes. Overdoing it can even cause blurriness or double vision.
Prolonged smart device use has been shown to affect respiratory function and posture which can lead to musculoskeletal disorders.
Adequate sleep has a relationship to many aspects of our health, including mental and emotional health, immunity, weight control, and susceptibility to chronic conditions.
National Sleep Foundation, points out that the more electronic devices that a person uses in the evening, the harder it is to fall asleep.
How digital devices affect your brain
According to Harvard Medical School researchers, a good night’s sleep is also key to brain development. Using blue light emitting screen devices like smartphones before bedtime can disrupt sleep patterns by suppressing the secretion of the hormone melatonin.
Spending many hours a day looking at digital devices causes us to do a lot of multitasking which the brain is not really designed to do. You might simultaneously send emails from your laptop while sitting in a meeting, following along with a presenter, taking notes, and keeping an eye on your mobile phone for notifications that you don’t want to miss.
How digital devices affect your emotions
Too much screen time can have a negative impact on mental health. According to Kaspersky, spending so much time alone with a screen can increase feelings of isolation and interrupt genuine connections in the real world.
Kaspersky also points out that people who spend a lot of time on social media may have lower self-esteem because they spend more time comparing themselves to connected peers on the platforms. Social media users compare themselves to celebrities and influencers who are on the platform and it can be detrimental to a person's mental health to compare their own life to the life of someone whose existence appears picture-perfect. Further effects of low self-esteem can include negative self-talk and body image issues, both of which can further negatively impact mental wellness as a person experiences them.
How digital devices affect your relationships
The allure of smartphones has an impact on our interpersonal relationships. When people sit in a room together, many times each person is glued to their devices and completely unengaged and disconnected.
Whether at the mall, waiting for a doctor’s appointment, or lying in bed, it can be tempting to pick up the device and start scrolling through social media or text messages. But anyone who has done so in the presence of a family member, a friend, or a romantic partner may have left that person feeling ignored, annoyed, or even pushed away.
These only brush on the surface of the myriad ways that technology is impacting our lives, relationships, and general health.