Is technology helping us or hurting us?

In a world full of constantly updated technology, it’s easy to feel superior. Look at us — we’re at the top of the food chain and we rule the world. We’re even smart enough to invent machines to do all of the hard work for us.

Or are we not so smart in that aspect?

It’s easy to look at a brand new iPad or the newest Call of Duty installment and think, “Wow, things are just getting better!” But what about the long-term effects? Could these sleek little objects be hurting us more than helping us?

In fact, the phrase “too much of a good thing” may be just the right way to describe human relationships with technology. These gadgets do have their many benefits, but let’s take a look at what could potentially hurt us if we find ourselves depending too much on them to get through the day.

Cellphones

What is technology really doing to us and how can we deal with it? Collaborative Graphic by Ashley Kincaid.

Those with cellphones love them. Those with smartphones love them even more. In fact, according to a survey conducted by the International Association for the Wireless Telecommunications Industry, approximately 79% of all teenagers own a mobile device. The new generation has been coined “Gen M” for mobile, and with the rise of smartphones, that percentage will only get higher.

From a practical standpoint, cellphones are wonderful. You can call from virtually anywhere, access the Internet for quick information, and even upload content. Ask anyone with a smartphone and they will all have the same sentiment — smartphones make things more convenient.

While this may be true, studies have also shown potential danger with too much cellphone usage. According to the National Cancer Institute, cellphones work by emitting radio frequency signals that are capable of seeping into human skin. Studies so far are unclear about whether this could lead to health problems such as migraines, dementia or certain types of cancer. There is also a theory that children are more at risk due to their smaller frame, which would be more susceptible to these frequencies. This generation has also been more exposed to cellphones than any other.

Finally, we must not forget the traffic accidents caused every day because of distracted driving. Virginia Law states that it is illegal to text while driving. However, the law that bans all use of mobile devices while driving only applies to those under 18.

What we can do:

According to Dr. Mehmet Oz, there are precautions we can take to help prevent these health issues:

  • Don’t keep your cellphone in your pocket. Studies have shown loss of bone density and fertility issues in men because of this practice.
  • Don’t talk while driving. Not only is it too distracting, but switching between cell towers increases the amount of RF energy.
  • Limit children’s use.
  • Do not talk when your phone is receiving poor signal. The device has to work harder to get signal so more exposure to RF energy is possible.
  • Remove headsets between conversations.
  • Keep conversations as short as possible.

MP3 players

MP3 players are another invention most people have. After all, almost nothing gets you through a boring homework assignment or a never-ending traffic jam than your favorite songs on shuffle, right? Unfortunately, too much of this gadget could have a negative effect as well.

According to a European study, long periods of exposure to loud sounds can damage a person’s hearing. Too often MP3 players are turned up too loudly, which can cause damage ranging from headaches to hearing loss.

Another danger that most don’t think of is that multitasking while listening to your MP3 player could be dangerous in certain situations. Sitting at a desk is safe enough, but what if you’re walking down the street or (once again) driving your car? Your senses are there for a reason, but if you’re in the middle of your favorite guitar solo, what are the chances of hearing brakes squealing, a siren, a scream, a gunshot, or any other sound that signals that you’re close to something dangerous?

What we can do:

  • Listen to your MP3 players in quieter places. Background noise is one of the biggest reasons for raising the volume too high.
  • Plug your player into your radio or use a speaker when driving.

TV and video game

TV has been the object of scrutiny for years. The classic problem with TV is that it does little to motivate people. There have been positive introductions to games and TV such as Wii-Fit and “The Biggest Loser,” but don’t be fooled. There are still plenty of couch potatoes out there.

Too much TV has its own army of bad effects. LimiTV, has an entire website dedicated to getting viewers to hit the “off” button. They list several health risks. These health risks include such things as headaches, poor body image, unreal perceptions of society, obesity, violent behavior, and a decrease in the development of manual dexterity in children.

Video games have evolved to the point where critics have classified it as addictive. Where many popular games have established online connection and don’t have specified “endings,” titles like World of Warcraft and Skyrim seem to go on forever. Unfortunately, so do the gamers. According to a website sponsored by the CRC Health Group, someone with a video game addiction will experience some of the same withdrawals as an alcoholic or a drug addict: anxiety, lack of focus, anger and frustration because they can’t play. Video game addicts have lost friends, families and careers because of their inability to stop playing.

What we can do:

  • Give yourself a time limit. After an hour or two, get up and do something active, like going outside.
  • When you’re watching TV, find a project you can work on simultaneously to keep yourself from getting too absorbed.
  • If you feel that you might be a video game addict, there are treatment options available, just like any other addiction.

Computers

Today, everything needs to interact. We have smartphones that get online, iPods that we can carry in our pocket and wireless speeds that download countless megabytes and gigabytes in a matter of minutes. Today is all about speed. The quicker you get the information, the quicker you can move on to whatever is next.

But here is where the “too much of anything is bad” statement applies the most. Since we rely on computers so often for everyday tasks, it’s easy to develop some of the health issues associated with too much computer use.

Let’s start with desktops. Sitting all day in front of a computer isn’t natural for the human body. We evolved to stand and walk, not to hunch over a keyboard for 8 hours straight. An article from the Better Health channel warns that too much computer use can lead to problems like:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Obesity
  • Muscle and joint problems
  • Back problems
  • Eye strain
  • And in some rare cases, epileptic seizures

Think a laptop or iPad is better? Maybe. But where do most people put these devices while they use them? In their laps. The head still cranes at an awkward angle to look down at the screen. Research from the Harvard School of Public Health found that neck and shoulder injury is a risk from being in such awkward positions for extended periods of time.

 

What we can do:

  • Set your laptop on a desk closer to eye level. If you have a tablet, use a holding device.
  • As with TV, limit your exposure by taking breaks and stretching out.
  • Adjust the display settings on your computer. Less brightness goes a long way.

 

If that doesn’t convince you:

For those who believe in evolution, let’s break down the theory for a moment. Over time, our bodies have evolved to fit our environment. We shed body hair as the temperature gets warmer. We developed opposable thumbs so that we could use tools. We developed a language in order to communicate. Our timeline, according to this theory, is a huge contributing factor to how our bodies look today.

That being said, let’s fast-forward into the future. After looking at today’s modern must-have gadgets, we can look forward to big eyes, bigger ears, a pancake-flat butt, a hunch-back and gigantic thumbs.

Beautiful.

Bottom line: Technology has its perks, but don’t let it take over your life. There is still a 3D world out there that doesn’t require special glasses to enjoy. Be sure to take some time away from technology once in a while to appreciate what came before it and what will hopefully still exist after it.