You can't deny technology has made many things easier. But, like with so many good things, too much can be a bad thing. And with people using their smartphones, tablets and laptops for nearly everything, including work, scheduling and socializing, sometimes there's hardly a moment of the day we aren't connected.
We're living in the first era of such connectivity and only starting to discover the downside of our connectedness. Technology has not only made us less active, but it also has the ability to age us faster than we'd like. Here are four innocuous ways technology is actually making us older:
1. It's making you lose sleep.
Of course the constant pinging of emails and text messages will keep you up at night, but studies have shown that using tablets, smartphones or your laptop near bedtime can disrupt your natural sleep schedule. A study published last year by the Brigham and Women's Hospital concluded that using these light-emitting devices suppresses your melatonin levels, making it harder to fall asleep and get more restful sleep.
And besides feeling sluggish the next day, poor sleep can cause dark circles, a lackluster complexion and fine lines, thanks to elevated cortisol levels which can lead to collagen breakdown. A solution: make your bedroom a technology-free zone and create a bedtime ritual which involves putting away your gadgets before you go to sleep.
2. It's causing "tech neck."
In 2014, researchers discovered that staring down at your phone as you text puts five to six times the weight pressure on your neck, creating posture problems and added stress to your spine.
"The problem of wrinkles and sagging of the jowls and neck used to begin in late middle age but, in the last 10 years, because of 'tech neck', it has become a problem for a generation of younger women," Christopher Rowland Payne, a dermatologist, told The International Business Times.
Besides, hunching over only makes you look older. The study's author, Kenneth Hansraj, says it's important to keep your neck straight and to bring your phone up to meet your eyes.
3. It's aging your eyes.
Whether you notice it or not, you're probably not blinking nearly enough when you're furiously texting or shooting off emails. Some doctors say you blink around half as much as you normally do when you're not staring at computer or smart phone screens. Not blinking enough can contribute to problems like dry eyes, blurry vision and even headaches.
Plus, if you're having trouble reading your phone, you're probably squinting, which can cause fine lines and wrinkles, especially around the eyes.
To combat the stress, there are several things you can do. Make your font size bigger so you don't have to strain your eyes to read. Make a conscious effort to blink more. Take a break from your screens every 20 minutes for around 20 seconds (or more) and focus on something far away. Or even better, get up from your desk, and take a quick lap around the office.
4. It may be affecting your memory.
Remember the good old days when you used to know all your friends' phone numbers by heart? These days, it's a miracle if we don't forget our own, thanks to the contacts you store on your phone. In addition, the use of a GPS to help you navigate means we're relying less on our own brain power.
A McGill University study found that people who use spatial navigation (things like remembering landmarks, etc.) to get around had a higher hippocampus volume than people who relied on a GPS. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that processes and stores memories.
Another study found that taking photos of things can impair your memory. Researchers at Fairfield University had subjects go to an art museum and observe some objects without taking photos -- and then observe other objects while taking photos. What they found was that memories were weaker for the items that were simply photographed.
It's important not to be entirely reliant on your phone. Try to use the GPS sparingly. Try to memorize a couple of new phone numbers. Try to calculate how much to tip the waiter all on your own.
You can do it.
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