I propose a game to you: the next time you are sitting with a group of friends or on a date, count the time that passes before someone takes your phone to review it. How long do you take?
No matter who you are, it is almost impossible to get someone to separate from their mobile toys (harder still: do your friends or your partner seem more interested in their phones than you?).
The problem of looking at our devices without ceasing is both social and physiological. The head of the average human weighs between 4.5 and 5.5 kilos and, when we tilt it to review Facebook, the gravitational force and the load on the neck increase to a pressure of almost 27 kilos . If this position is continuous, it causes a progressive loss of the cervical curve of the spine.
The syndrome of the “neck of text” is becoming a medical problem that countless people are suffering, but the way we let the head hang also represents other health risks, according to an article published last year in the The Spine Journal.
It has been shown that posture influences mood, behavior and memory , and that slouching can often make us feel depressed, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information . Our position influences both the amount of energy available to us and in bone and muscle development, and even in the amount of oxygen our lungs receive. Our body language is related to the perception of weakness and power: all this is real.
And the solution can be ridiculously simple: sit straight.
Social psychologists such as Amy Cuddy claim that even standing in a position that reflects safety, with the head lifted and the shoulders thrown back, can elevate the flow of testosterone and cortisol to the brain and thus avoid much of the aforementioned problems. So, why do not we pay attention to these signals? It could be simple denial.
Blindness due to lack of attention is a problem
Experts say that the behavior of being “always connected”, to which smartphones contribute, makes us distance ourselves from reality. And in addition to the consequences on our health, if we keep our heads down, our communication skills and good manners will also be affected. But, ironically, this is not how most of us perceive ourselves.
“We believe that in some way this antisocial behavior will not affect us in particular,” said Niobe Way , a professor of Applied Psychology at New York University. Way studies the influence of technology on adolescent development.
He said that these interactions with the head down away from the present no matter what group we belong to. And it is not a problem that only concerns the youth: it is rooted, it is learned, emulated and repeated in large part imitating adults. When children see their parents with their heads down, they imitate that action. Consequently, there is a loss of non-verbal clues that can detract from the development.
“It happens more and more often that we stop talking with our children,” said Way. “We put them in front of technology when they are small and when we are older, we are absorbed in it”.
The expert added: “We thought: ‘Somehow, my children will know how to distinguish between a good interaction and a bad one; they will be empathic. ‘ But when I go up to my son’s room and I see seven teenagers looking at their phones, without anyone saying a word, at that moment there is a disconnection at all levels. The problem is not Facebook, but how we use it. ”
It affects all ages
A 2010 study showed that adolescents between eight and 18 spent more than 7.5 hours a day consuming digital media. Since then, our digital addictions have continued to define our lives in certain ways: in 2015, the Pew Research Center reported that 24 percent of teens are online “almost permanently.”
Adults are in the same situation: according to the Nielsen Total Hearing Report last year, most adults spend ten hours a day or more using electronic media.
The National Security Council reports that the use of a cell phone increases the likelihood of drivers having an accident more than driving while intoxicated , as it causes 1.6 million crashes a year in the United States, most of which are caused by young people between 18 and 20 years old . One in four accidents in the United States is due to the sending of text messages.
“Mobile devices are the mother of blindness for lack of attention,” said Henry Alford , author of Would It Kill You to Stop Doing That: A Modern Guide to Manners . “That is the state of the monomaniacal unconsciousness that occurs when you are absorbed in an activity that excludes you from your surroundings”.
Social scientist Sherry Turkle analyzed thirty years of family interactions in her book Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other . He discovered that children now compete with their parents’ devices to get attention and, consequently, we have a generation fearful of the spontaneity of a phone call or face-to-face interaction. Apparently, eye contact is optional today, Turkle suggested, and sensory overload can often mean that our feelings are constantly anesthetized.
Researchers from the University of Michigan claim that levels of empathy have plummeted while narcissism has exploded , affecting emotional development, confidence and health every time we stick our chins to our chests and hang our heads like human ostriches .
That said: it’s very likely that you’re reading this on a mobile device right now. And it’s OK! (as long as you’re not driving). Our job is not to force you to get rid of your iPhone and abandon digital media. However, as with many addictions, recognizing the problem is the first step of treatment. And, fortunately, the solution is not to reject technology, but to favor conversation, according to what Turkle recommends.
Strive to interact with people
The simplest answer for all of us is biblical: treat others … and do it without having your phone stuck in your hand. The next time you’re in a line to pay or stop at a traffic light, look around you. How many people are really with you?
“Real humans, flesh and blood, are a priority,” Martin said. “Ignoring the people you’re with is rude, whether you ignore them because of your virtual or distant friends.”
Alford described the problem as the “monomaniacal unconsciousness” of being absorbed in an activity that excludes us from the rest of the world.
“Treating the person in front of you as if it were secondary to your phone, is usually, in the children’s voice, a micro-aggression,” he said.
Young and old, we all make up a generation of test cases, literally. They are changing the rules of etiquette, good manners, body language and the way we respond, interact and even look. We are missing out on a lifetime that occurs only 90 degrees above our phone. Start to look up.
“Never be the first of the group to take out your phone,” suggested Alford. “Do not be the patient zero.”