No one will be surprised to learn that texting is nearly universal among young adults with cell phones (so, um, all of them?). According to the data, 97 percent of cell phone users under 30 text every day. Oldsters are not far behind them: 92 percent of the 30 to 49 set text every day and 72 percent of the 50 to 64 age group do too.
And while texting can be a great way to stay in touch, to make seamless plans and to share the minor frustrations and comedies of daily life in almost real time, it sure has a downside. That's why we at HuffPost have launched several special initiatives to help explore what we lose when we settle for the plugged-in and tuned-out life. The science backs us up on this. Read on to learn why it really might be time to put the phone down -- even if it's just for an hour or an afternoon or a day.
It'll help you sleep better tonight
We all know that cell phone use during the wee hours can be disruptive to our sleep patterns, but it's also true that texting during the day could harm our ability to get a good night's sleep, according to a recent study in the journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture.
In the study, researchers followed the stress levels, texting habits and sleep of first year college students. They found that regardless of stress levels, the more people texted during the day the poorer their sleep was.
Your divided attention could keep you from what's truly important
We're not just talking about missing special moments -- although surely, texting during time spent with loved ones can prevent full engagement. We're talking about priorities. HuffPost Parents blogger Jennifer Meer described a scary recent moment, during which she was giving her sick 3-year-old daughter a bath:
I heard the ping of the iPad and saw an email from my friend. There was zero urgency about responding but inexplicably, I felt the need to, right then and there.
And in doing so, I left her alone in the tub for two minutes.
On any other night this would've been fine. But this night was different. She was really tired and the water was warm and she just fell asleep; completely and totally asleep. I've never seen anything like it before in my life. I went back in two minutes later and by the grace of God, she had managed to fall asleep sitting up, slumped against the side of the tub. But it wouldn't have been much longer (how much longer, seconds?) before she would've slipped under the water. She would've drowned. It would have been entirely my fault.
Yes, Meer was looking at email on her device -- but the same could be said for texting.
Your posture is suffering
Texting can actually harm your whole body.
“People get so focused on these devices that they end up holding their neck and upper back in abnormal positions for a long period of time; enough that other people coined the phrase ‘text neck,’ which is essentially referring to postural pain,” Chris Cornett, M.D., orthopaedic surgeon and spine specialist at the University of Nebraska Medical Center Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Rehabilitation, said in a statement.
Want to counteract the effect of all this stooping and texting? Cornett recommends trying to bring your phone to eye level while you use it or actually training for your endurance texting with back, neck and core strengthening exercises. Oh, and give your phone a rest!
We can't believe we still have to say this, but it disrupts your driving
Hopefully you know by now that you can't text and drive (since it's the law and all), but an astounding 80 percent of college-aged drivers admit to engaging in this behavior, despite knowing how dangerous it can be.
You are 23 times more likely to crash if you're texting behind the wheel, according to a federal report. And cell phone use was associated with 18 percent of "distraction"-related deaths.
It makes you a less responsible pedestrian
Even if you aren't driving, your texting could be a liability to the people around you. A study in the British Medical Journal found that one in three people are distracted by mobile devices while walking and that texting was the most distracting of all the mobile activities -- including listening to music and talking on the phone.
The researchers observed more than 1,000 pedestrians during rush hour in Seattle and recorded their phone habits and safety precautions as they crossed traffic junctions. They reported that texting pedestrians were almost four times more likely to ignore traffic lights, fail to look both ways at a cross and to cross outside of the demarcated crosswalk.
Your school or work performance will suffer
Your texting could be holding back your productivity at work or school. According to one study of college students, female first year students spend an average 12 hours texting and engaging in social media -- and extensive media use is associated with lower academic performance.
"We found women who spend more time using some forms of media report fewer academic behaviors, such as completing homework and attending class, lower academic confidence and more problems affecting their school work, like lack of sleep and substance use," study researcher Jennifer L. Walsh, Ph.D., of The Miriam Hospital's Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine, told ScienceDaily.
But it isn't just college students who face texting distractions. A study conducted at the University of Michigan found that short interruptions at work -- even just the duration of reading or sending a text -- can increase the number of errors a worker makes during a single task, reported HealthDay.
It can prevent you from really enjoying the activities you cherish
Google executive Bonita Stewart banishes her cell phone from her ballet class so that she can enjoy her dance practice unfettered by her to-do list. As she told HuffPost Healthy Living:
During class, I never looked at my phone. But one time I did and it became a reminder for how sacred the space should really be. My boss emailed me, during the break, between the barre and the floor exercise and I had just decided to check my email. Email draws you in and there’s always some action item -- something that triggers a response.
For the rest of the class, it made it much more difficult to concentrate. Remembering the exercise, going across the floor. That one email check pulled into class what I should be doing after class. I lost being in the moment, being present and the joy faded. I realized that I had invaded my sacred space with technology.
Have a story about your own smartphone sabbath? Tell us about it.
Also on HuffPost:
You Have To Respond... Immediately
If an unanswered texts or emails gets your heart rate going, there's a good chance that your smartphone is adding stress to your life rather than making it easier. Constantly interrupting what you're doing -- whether it's writing a college essay or spending some quality time with your friends -- to check your phone might be an indication that your behavior has become compulsive. When you start getting anxious about your inbox, take a moment to step back and remind yourself that it's probably not as urgent as it seems. Sleeping with your phone away from your bed and keeping it in your backpack instead of your pocket during class can also gradually help to lessen your urge to be constantly checking for new messages.
You Have Phantom Cellphone Syndrome
You could’ve sworn you felt your phone vibrating in your back pocket, but when you took it out, you saw that nothing had happened. <a href="http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9227184/Cellphone_vibration_syndrome_and_other_signs_of_tech_addiction" target="_blank">Phantom cellphone vibration syndrome</a> is a real sign of technology addiction -- and it's more common than you might think. A study conducted at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne found that a whopping<a href="http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563212000799" target="_blank"> 89 percent</a> of undergrads had experienced feeling nonexistent cellphone vibrations.
You Have A Bad Case Of FOMO
Are you constantly thinking about what everyone else is doing and all the things you might be missing out on at any given moment? Does scrolling through party photos and enthusiastic weekend updates on your News Feed make you feel sad or anxious? Well, there's a name for that: FOMO. It's not uncommon for ocial media and smartphone users to experience a "fear of missing out" when they're unable to get to their phones or when they're getting updates about all the exciting things that everyone in their social network is doing. The best way to combat FOMO is to step back and say no sometimes, and just take sometime to do whatever <em>you </em>want -- not what other people are doing or telling you to do.
You're Not Paying Attention To Your Friends & Family
We've all be there -- you're having dinner with friends or family with your phone sitting next to your plate, and instead of ignoring it, you turn your attention away from the conversation to respond to a text. While there's nothing wrong with picking up important calls or excusing yourself to answer messages when necessary -- but if you make a habit of giving only half your attention to the people you're with while the other half is busy checking Twitter, it might be time to rethink your phone habits. To avoid damaging your relationships, make a resolution to give your full attention to whoever you're with in person and save the screen time for later.
You Feel Restless When You're Away From Your Phone
If you experience withdrawal when you can't check your phone or respond to messages, you might have a technology addiction. <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/8235302/Facebook-generation-suffer-information-withdrawal-syndrome.html" target="_blank">Studies have found</a> that turning off their phones can induce physical and mental withdrawal symptoms similar to those exhibited by drug addicts. If you feel yourself becoming nervous and antsy when you're away from your phone, take note of those feelings and find a coping mechanism -- taking deep breaths, going for a walk or exercising could help you get past the anxiety.
Poor Performance In School
If you're having an increasingly difficult time focusing in class and eagerly await the ringing of the bell so that you can check your phone and return that unanswered text, an Internet or smartphone addiction <a href="http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/cpb.1998.1.237" target="_blank">may be partially to blame</a> for low grades. Although there may be many factors at play in decreasing academic performance, constant distraction and excessive time spent on your smartphone can easily interfere with your schoolwork. If the lure of your phone is too powerful for you to concentrate on homework,<a href="http://mashable.com/2012/01/03/block-internet-distractions-apps/" target="_blank"> try downloading an app </a>that blocks social media activity and online distractions.