The perils of “always on” technology:
Okay, so your "text neck" probably won’t actually kill you (unless you are texting and driving). However, it’s becoming increasingly likely that at some point in the next 5-10 years of tech use, you’ll develop a repetitive stress disorder.
The phrase carpal tunnel syndrome (wrist pain) has been part of the collective conscious for several decades. It's so common as a disrupter of productivity that it has spawned an entire industry of ergonomics solutions. These range from special keyboards to Star Trek styled full desk/monitor set ups. All keep you at your desk longer making trades, typing contracts, writing legal memos.
And then the 2000’s came along. Most of us jumped all in with smartphones and laptops and tablets.
Suddenly we could be productive all the time.
Standing on the subway platform?
Let me check my email.
Taking the train in from CT?
Let me just go over those sales reports.
Date just went to the bathroom?
Let me text my assistant to make sure I’m set up for tomorrow’s board meeting.
Unfortunately, there are costs to constant device use that might change your mind about your phone and tablet.
Looking down at our phone, tablet, or laptop, pulls our head forward and down. This imbalances all the muscles holding up your head (ahem... text neck). These imbalances can cause any and all of the following:
- neck pain
- shoulder pain
- low back pain
- carpal tunnel syndrome
- low energy
- bone loss
- memory loss
Sound scary? Don’t believe it?
Check out this New York Times article: Keep Your Head Up: How Smartphone Addiction Kills Manners and Moods
Like many things that aren’t healthy for us, these costs are not going to suddenly show up tomorrow. They build up over time. In ways that make it hard to track what the changes are doing to your body. However, there is hope for us all!
What can I do about this?
I’m not some Luddite preaching that we should all return to farming. I happen to be a business owner with 20+ employees and have tech in so many screen sizes it’s getting ridiculous. I deal with text neck too.
I’ve got a smartwatch, smartphone, an iPad for home and one for work, an airbook laptop, an iMac at my desk. Not to mention the 15 other devices I have at the office for the staff to be "productive" on. I’m just as tempted as you to go on my phone on the subway and read articles on Facebook or Twitter to pass the time. So I decided to try something out...
Over the past 2 weeks, I’ve been running an experiment to see just how much I can lighten up my daily commute (see the last blog post on how much we carry around with us and tips to help with that).
I’ve gotten down to just leaving home with the following:
That’s right….NO BAG.
I had to get really clear on what my time is worth to me and what my long term health is worth to me. And I had to spend some extra cash to duplicate certain items at work and at home so that I wouldn’t have to cart them back and forth.
Is it worth it? For me this experiment has been a fascinating eye opener. It’s also reduced my daily stress levels by about 20-30%.
I have less issues with headaches at day end, my back feels better, and my overall mood has noticeably improved.
I’ve got new rules for my text neck, I count em:
#1: I am not allowed to look at my phone during my commute except to choose music.
#2: I am only allowed to work while at the office, or while at my desk at my home office. The couch is only for relaxing and the bed is only for sleeping (and well, you know…).
#3: If I need something both at work and at home, I duplicate that item rather than carry it back and forth. The value in stress reduction and ease of movement on my body is a long-term savings in health and self-care costs down the road.
#4: If I do have to look at a device, I hold it up to horizon level and keep my head up.
#5: When my arm gets tired of holding up the device to eye level rather than looking down, it’s time to take a break and put it away.
You may think I’m crazy for buying a second iPad to keep one at work and one at the office. Really the only reason for me to do that is that it has become my primary note taking device for my life coaching sessions. Sure, I could take notes on paper, but then I’d have to create a filing system for them. The iPad keeps all my notes for each client on the cloud.
Of course, you’ll have to do your own analysis of the following:
- what you can and can’t do without
- how much is your time is worth
- which work can be left until tomorrow or
- what work can be put on hold for the 45 minutes to 2 hours you spend on your commute
You’ll probably come up with different ways to reduce your load and stress than I have. (For instance, maybe it’s spending the extra cash on a monthly gym locker. You can leave your workout gear there most of the time.) Prioritize those ideas and see for yourself how helpful it can be.
Are you willing to give lightening your load and keeping your head up a try? Yes? Your text neck will thank you.