I wake up, I check my phone. In fact, I set my alarm 5 minutes early so I have time to do this.
I go to class, I take notes on my computer.
I eat lunch, and do work on my computer.
More work on my computer.
Go to work, send e-mails on my computer.
Do more work on my computer.
Do my physics homework.
Check my phone some more and go to sleep.
Wake up and repeat.
In short, the majority of my day is made of looking at a digital screen. Whether it be my iPhone or computer, whether I’m writing a paper or scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, my eyes are trained at the screen, my posture is probably poor, and I am am focused only on the lit screen in front of me. Since society and school have taken a turn towards technology as the primary means of communication, our bodies will have to adapt.
Yesterday, I had about two hours worth of physics homework. Physics homework, where all I needed was a pen and paper. And when I shut off the computer I had been just finished working on, I felt relieved. Excited, even. Relieved to no longer have to stare at the screen, excited to take the strain off my eyes. And I realized this wasn’t the first time I felt like this. On long car rides when I kill time staring at my phone (in the passenger seat of course) I get this same feeling of needing to put it away. My head starts to hurt and my neck feels stiff. My attention on these devices is the cause of these physical ailments.
So, the solution: I spent more time using these devices to figure out just how they were causing health issues. I can’t be the only one experiencing these pains, so I’ve collected what I’ve learned for you.
- Make sure your screen is optimized for easy viewing. This means no glares, it is arms length away and right in front of your eye, and it is clean of dust and well lit. These will prevent CVS (Computer Vision Syndrome — it’s a real thing)
- Look away from the screen every twenty minutes or so, and remember to blink frequently. Taking work breaks is encouraged as well.
In this endeavor, I also learned that the devices that make us smarter also hurt our academic capabilities. Sleep has been affected by the new means of communication in that we can constantly be reached, and because of this there is pressure to respond right away. A text in the middle of the night if my phone isn’t on silent may stir me just enough for me to reach over and see “what’s up.”
If this is the way we are set to communicate for the rest of my lifetime, I’m going to take these health effects into account. Tonight, my phone will be on silent, and when I write that next 10 page paper I’ll have a good excuse to take some long breaks in between.