In the last several years, many studies involving the regular use of communication devices such as cell phones have been conducted to verify their impact on health. While some definitive results have been achieved, it is difficult to know the effect those results actually have on the wellbeing of individuals.
Numerous studies have been conducted showing that the low levels of electromagnetic radiation from cell phones and other broadcasting devices have a direct impact on the molecules of the body.
The radio waves and microwaves emitted by these devices cause increased oxidation in certain enzymes, marking an increase in overall oxidation levels in the body. It is still unclear however just how much this increased oxidation actually harms the body, if at all.
Oxidation is a regular part of life, but increased levels of oxidation over time can damage cells and possibly even lead to cancer. Therefore, there is at least some reason to be wary of the potential damages.
There have been a few studies that have shown strong evidence that those foods and substances high in antioxidants can prevent a large portion of radiation-induced oxidation. Substances such as Gingko Biloba and Bee Propolis are good examples (Ilhan et al. 2004) (Ozguner et al. 2005).
A more concrete and perhaps even more dangerous potential threat of improper technology use is the psychological effect it can have.
While many studies have been done on the mental and social impact of technology, a few particular studies stand out from the pack. A study done by Andrew Przybylski at Essex University demonstrated that even the mere presence of a cell phone during an in-person conversation can decrease the mental and emotional effects of the interaction via decreased bonding and decreased attentiveness (AK Przybylski, 2013).
While this may not have a large impact in situations such as a business conference or other group settings, it can have potentially disastrous consequences when it comes to establishing and maintaining personal relationships.
The second study, done by Sara Thomeé and a few others, shows how many young adults suffered increased levels of stress, anxiety, and depression due to increased cell phone usage (Thomeé et al. 2011). No firm mechanism for the cause has been established, but there are several likely candidates. One possible cause of technology-related stress is the sense of constant inadequacy targeted at one’s self and their life circumstances.
As technology advances, it becomes easier to keep an eye on the progress of your neighbor, and also to publicize the best about yourself. Sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are loaded with photo-shopped pictures of friends and acquaintances looking beautiful and having the time of their life. As a result, this often leads individuals to compare themselves to others, and the result is increased dissatisfaction with their own life.
Another way technology impacts psychological health is by having a constant tether to the stresses of life. Having a cell phone on hand at all times means that the boss can get in touch at any time, or that the bill collectors can find you no matter where you are, even if that happens to be on a tropical island loaded with piña coladas. Even when the stressful calls are not coming in, the cell phone serves as a reminder that debts, obligations, and work emergencies still exist, and make it much more difficult to truly let go and relax.
A more tangible reason for increased stress levels are the continual distractions allowed by devices that don’t allow a person to focus on one task long enough to finish it, and so they are constantly having to find their place and in effect start over again. This causes mental confusion, decreased productivity, and increased feelings of perceived stress as the mind is bombarded by multiple threats simultaneously, instead of being able to focus on one at a time.
The adverse effects observed by this study varied depending on individual use and perception of technology, but the overall results show that the issue is big enough to merit attention to how a person approaches the use of their technology.
A third study done by Erin Gemmill and Michael Peterson took a slightly different approach. They studied how cell phone use contributed to external stress issues, such as arriving to class or work late, being interrupted in the middle of the night, missing out on vital information, and turning in homework late. All of which tend to be heavy sources of stress in the lives of students. The study found that 25% of participants in the study experienced an increased amount of technology-induced stressors (Gemmill and Peterson, 2006).
While technology has powerful potential to help facilitate a fast-paced and productive lifestyle, it can also be a double-edged sword, especially if used irresponsibly.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind to help maximize efficiency and also manage technology-related stress:
- Check emails and messages only at certain times of the day or week. Tell people to call you instead if it is an emergency.
- Don’t multitask with your technology. Focus on one task, and leave the messages and emails until you are done.
- Turn off your cell phone at night. If you use it for your alarm to wake up in the morning make sure that notifications are turned off, or just buy a cheap alarm clock.
- If using social networks, limit your use to only a few hours per week. When you get on, do what you intended to do, and get off. Don’t just browse endless photos and posts.
- Don’t compare your life circumstances to those of others, which are often photo-shopped or exaggerated in other ways.
- Limit news media browsing to only a few minutes per day. Don’t overwhelm yourself with information.
- Take some time to disconnect each month, or better yet, each week. Leave the phone at home and go outside to do something with your friends and family.
- Put your phone away when you aren’t doing anything specific with it. When you feel the itch to take it out and check it, opt to start a conversation with someone nearby instead.
- Never have the phone present or the TV on when trying to have a deep or emotionally charged conversation with someone you care about.