Living in a World of Digital Insanity

Author Steve Halsall, Director, Red Tiger Consulting

How many of you reach for the phone last thing at night and first thing in the morning? Don’t use the excuse of setting your alarm and switching it off! And how many of you think that a few minutes browsing news/twitter/Instagram/facebook is the best solution to curb insomnia? I have to say I am guilty of this.  Now, how many of you feel that intense panic when you lose your phone, or the phone runs out of battery?  Finally, how many of you have been out with friends at a social gathering and one person looks at their phone and triggers a domino effect of everyone else in the party checking their phone screens?

So ask yourself this – are you controlling your phone, or is your phone controlling you? Are smart phones becoming such a part of our lives that we can’t function without them?

I may be flippant in my observations but underlying this is a genuine concern about how our use of such devices is damaging to society. In this blog I have outlined a few main areas where issues can arise from excessive screen time.

Physical Issues

  • Eyesight – clearly exposure to screens can cause digital eyestrain.   This can include dry eye, eye strain, headaches and blurry vision.  It is certainly recommended to take regular breaks away from the screen.
  • Impact on fingers – Tech claw is an RSI condition that causes pain or cramping in your fingers due to excessive texting.  There can also be issues relating to excessive thumb use.
  • Impact on posture – Tech neck is caused by excessive force being put on your neck when you tilt your head down to read texts.   This can extend to the lower back caused by bad posture.   This is significant to anyone (including children) who use tablets or mobiles as they are often slouched on beds or sofas with postures that an occupational therapist would weep about.

Social Issues

  • Face to face communication is a dying art – people would much rather text than phone or meet face to face. Nothing beats that human engagement and looking in people’s eyes and seeing their expressions/body language. See previous blog “Walk the Walk and talk more” – http://redtigerconsulting.co.uk/walk-walk-talk-2/
  • False identity – If people hide behind social media are they really who they say they are? This fundamentally erodes trust in society, yes there have always been liars in a pre-digital world but online the liars can have fabrications on a whole different level.

Mental Issues

  • Focus on the job in hand – we are battling a constant bombardment of information and this is made worse by mobile technology. We have all missed important parts of tv programmes, sports events, or music concerts because we have been momentarily distracted by our phones.
  • General concentration – children especially, but adults too, can be unable to concentrate on anything for longer than the average duration of a You Tube video. Our information now comes in bite sized snippets, and we struggle to digest or pay attention to anything longer.

Less Screen Time

I have embraced the release of Screen Time with iOS 12. The irony, after spending so much time making you addicted to their technology and apps, Apple are now providing the means for consumers to monitor their usage of their devices.  Will we turn completely the other way and gamify the down-time per day?   It will probably once and for all settle the long running debate my wife and I have about who is most addicted to their smart phone!

We are each responsible for our own phone use and these are my tips to ensure that you take control of your phone:

  • Be clear about what hours of the day are suitable for phone use, and ensure you stick to it.
  •  Ensure you set (and keep) to limits on the amount of time spent on social media – if it gets out of hand delete the app for a while and see how much of your life you get back, the world doesn’t stop if social media stops).
  • Try to ensure a good posture while using you phone and avoid un-necessary strain on the neck, back, hands and eyes.
  • Use the technology to your benefit – limit the amount of app alerts and also use technology around do not disturb to ensure you are not distracted when sleeping.

You would have to be buried in your mobile device, if you don’t share my concern that this is a growing issue across society. Look anywhere in public and you will see people staring into their phones or devices. In fact, I bet you are reading this blog on a smart phone or tablet!

If you have any screen time tips, or share my concerns, please comment below.

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