Do you feel that something is missing whenever you forget to bring your phone to the office, or when a day has passed that you weren’t able to browse Facebook or Twitter? No matter if you’re 8 or 75 years old, it’s most likely that you are spending at least an hour on the internet. Well, you are not alone. Thousands, if not millions of people out there feel the same way. We are indeed living in a digital era wherein the internet has become a basic commodity in our day to day living.
But too much use of the internet could be doing your physical and mental health more harm than good, according to several studies. For instance, in 2008, researchers from Leeds University found a link between pathological internet use and depression. They discovered that too much time spent on the internet correlates to increased personal, emotional, social, and academic challenges people encounter.
You need not give up your fancy over Facebook and other social networking sites, blogs, YouTube and the entire online world. The key is to give yourself a break from these things once in a while. But when do you know that you already need to unplug? Watch out for the following signs:
1) You’re still working even if it’s already way beyond office hours. If you find yourself constantly checking emails whilst on a dinner date or a friend’s wedding, it might be time for a little digital detox.
2) You’re no longer getting enough sleep. That phone next to you can have serious effects on your quality of sleep. Here’s the thing – electronic devices emit the so-called ‘blue light’ which has been found to affect your body’s melatonin levels – the hormone that regulates sleep. What’s more, it also emits radiation that’s not good for your health. In 2008, researchers from the US and Sweden found that radiations emitted by mobile phones cause headaches and interrupt vital sleep patterns.
3) You already have the ‘text claw’. Holding your mobile phone for quite awhile can lead to text claw, a condition (which isn’t a medical diagnosis) that can cause cramps and soreness in your hand and fingers. After logging sometime on your phone, you may want to set it aside for a while, stretch and do something different.
4) You have lost awareness of your surroundings. You probably didn’t notice the new interior design of the office, a new co-worker, or the new clothes your spouse is wearing because you are too focused on one thing – your emails. Texting or surfing the web whilst doing something is a form of multitasking, which, unfortunately, your brain doesn’t like.
5) You’re hearing ‘phantom vibrations’. A 2012 study published in the Computers of Human Behaviour journal revealed that a large portion of young adults experience hearing phantom vibrations at least once every two weeks. According to the researchers, those who are bothered by it tend to demonstrate text-message dependency, which is a big sign that they need unplugging.
6) You’re constantly suffering from headaches. Too much screen time can cause headache and fatigue. But take note, too much digital exposure could cause more serious damage to your brain. Just this August, researchers from South Korea found that people who rely heavily on technology may suffer a decline in cognitive abilities, such as short term memory determination. So you may really want to slow down a bit.
7) You tend to panic when your phone is not in your sight. An American study found that 58 per cent of smartphone users check their devices at least every hour, and majority check their phones even whilst in the bathroom or in bed.
8) You’re having visual problems more often. According to the study by the SUNY College of Optometry, State University of New York, sustained computer use can cause blurry vision. The study also found that approximately 90 per cent of people who stare at their digital devices for more than two hours per day experience complex eye problems, including dry eyes and blurry vision.
9) Your online activates are interrupting with your work. Does your internet use affect your day to day functions at work and at home? Are you not getting enough work done because you spend more time browsing the web? If yes, it’s time for you to disconnect.
10) It’s no longer making you feel good. Does looking at the status of your Facebook friends giving you so much irritation, anxiety and other negative emotions? Earlier this year, researchers from the University of Michigan proved that Facebook causes depression. They also found that the longer people spend on Facebook, the more likely they feel depressed.
There are so much more things to enjoy in life than just sitting in front of your computer screen. Give yourself time to unwind and unplug from the internet. When there’s balance in all areas of your life, you will feel much, much better and happier.