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Lorraine Devon Wilke Headshot

Bent Neck Syndrome and Compulsive Connectivity Disorder: Latest Smartphone Afflictions?

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Remember when hardly anyone beyond lead guitarists, assembly line workers and those in the medical industry knew about Carpal Tunnel Syndrome? It was just this oddly named thing -- disease, injury, we didn't know what -- that registered as hazily as Bruxism or Glossophobia. Then we all got personal computers and suddenly secretaries, pool typists and writers the world over were wearing wrist braces, talking about "repetitive injuries" and demanding ergonomic chairs. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome was all the rage, like cupcakes and menopause. Before long it seemed the ubiquity of our new and amazing computer technology had not only brought about a revolution in the way we did... well, everything... it had additionally wrought a panoply of injurious side effects that ultimately demanded industrial and medical intervention that has now spawned jobs, new chair and desk designs; charming wrist and back pads, as well as treatment centers, therapies and the attendant professionals to avert the wrist straining crisis that threatens all regular computer users.

It can't be long before we're having the same conversation about Bent Neck Syndrome and Compulsive Connectivity Disorder.

What are those, you ask? Oh, you know:

Bent Neck Syndrome (BNS) is defined as the inability to walk, stand, or sit without bending one's neck to gaze at the tiny screen of a smartphone to read or write a text, attend Facebook, engage voice mail, respond to a Words With Friends entry, or peruse the latest Apps catalogue. This syndrome occurs when the nerves, muscles and spine curvature are repetitively compressed and impacted by the constant motion of bending one's neck towards said smartphone. BNS, as it is often called, prevents the injured party from sitting at a dinner table and making eye contact with dinner partners. It limits one's ability to walk down a street observing the environment or connecting to passersby with a nod or smile. BNS makes conversation during car trips impossible, as the sufferer cannot look up from their phone long enough to actually commit to such a physical exchange (texting with a BNS sufferer, is, however, possible). You see a proliferation of BNS victims on city buses, trains, waiting rooms and in line at Target. They are often sitting next to you in a theater, sharing space at a crowded bar or, most disturbingly, in your home, at your dinner table, or riding along with you in a car.

Some of the most pronounced side effects of Bent Neck Syndrome are:
1. Detachment from humanity outside of one's text-posse
2. General drop in empathy
3. Deterioration of conversational skills
4. Loss in articulate vocabulary or proper spelling skills
5. Increase in bad table manners
6. Devaluation of nature or environment due to lack of attention to it
7. Loss of connection with family and friends
8. Exclusion from Twenty Questions on family road trips.

There are many more but these are some of the most devastating. Which brings us to Compulsive Connectivity Disorder.

Compulsive Connectivity Disorder (CCD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by the compulsive and repetitive need to be in constant, moment-by-moment, contact with Facebook friends, BFFs, BFs, GFs, or any kind of F involved with your texting pool, Angry Birds sessions, or the ticker-tape parade of phone camera images bandied about on every format available online. CCD sufferers can often be previously well-mannered people who, by virtue of their disorder, have devolved into irrational communicators who have a desperate need to be IN TOUCH, in capital letters, without interruption. They must be the first to "like" or comment on a Facebook post, "retweet" a particularly titillating Twitter message, stream the latest YouTube viral sensation, or be ON TOP OF (again with the capital letters) whatever is the next trend trending in the always-trendy troupe with which they traverse. Should a CCD sufferer lose a smartphone, leave it at home, in a car, or find it's been stolen, it's likely severe hysteria, loss of one's ability to breathe or other profound panic reactions will follow.

Some of the most pronounced side effects of Compulsive Connectivity Disorder are:
1. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
2. Bent Neck Syndrome
3. Sheer exhaustion
4. Loss of ability to read or write long sentences
5. Confusion between text-speak and the English language
6. Loss of appetite due to a dearth of time to eat
7. A sense of overwhelm as more "must do" online outlets pop up
8. Overexposure due to constant status updating
9. Overexposure due to inappropriate (and later regretted) photo posting
10. Loss of friends as alliances and loyalties shift and change within milliseconds
11. Disconnection from family and non-smartphone acquaintances
12. All the enumerated (above) side effects of Bent Neck Syndrome

Hopefully, however, as we advance through this particular era of technological evolution and advancement, the ever-present and still-beating heart and soul of humanity will sustain enough to rise above; to cause us to take a breath, stop, look around and realize there's a much-needed balance to find between man and machine.

Families will prohibit phones at the dinner table; friends and dates will have the good manners to follow suit. Road trips will become adventures exempt of technology except in cases of emergencies... or GPS. People will remember how pleasant it can be to walk down a street while taking in the trees and birds and their colorful fellowman. Conversations will once again become stimulating and exciting formats in which to exchange ideas, learn new things; laugh, make both friends and eye contact. We'll take more time to observe the world around us, build empathy, and appreciate the beauty of both nature and urban artistry... in fact, all the uniqueness of our various environments. Our movies, plays and philharmonics (you heard about the guy at the New York Philharmonic, didn't you?) will be mercifully free from disturbances by those who simply won't or can't remember to power down their ubiquitous phones. We'll discover we can easily catch up with Facebook, emails, Twitter, Words with Friends and all the latest YouTube sensations in a once-a-day seating rather than the compulsively constant, uninterrupted attendance BNS and CCD demands.

We'll put down our phones, get up from our ergonomic chairs, straighten our necks and step away from whatever screens we have wrapped all around us.

And we'll heal.

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