I always believe I live a healthy life – 3 proper meals a day with a balanced diet, 4 nights a week running with a total distance of 15km, 2 mornings doing yoga for 20 minutes and regular intake of water.
Yet my recent medical check-up has proven me wrong. I have been diagnosed with a few new conditions – Digital Eye Syndrome, Phantom Ringing Syndrome and Nomophobia.
Well, the first one is true while the other two might need further investigation.
Digital Eye Syndrome refers to the physical discomfort felt after two or more hours in front of a digital screen and is associated with staring at a close to mid-range fixed distance (www.opsm.com.au). This makes me realise that it doesn’t matter how much you try to stay healthy, the fact that we live in a digital world forcing us to constantly be in contact with technology. It is unavoidable. Apart from the 6 to 8 hour work shifts on computers, we also check our Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn when we’re at home, making up to almost 4 hours a day on social media platforms (www.sensis.com.au) and hence, further exposure to digital life. And we have only talked about the exposure to your eyes. We have not even started with other effects of being online for 10 to 12 hours a day!
Apart from the eyes, I have also developed Phantom Ringing Syndrome, which is the perception that one’s mobile phone is vibrating or ringing when it is NOT. This happens a lot when I am in a meeting and constantly glancing at the phone due to the anxiety that someone might ring and I might miss an important call. Whether it is my brain or my ears, I do not have a conclusion. Neither does the doctor. But one thing is for sure, anxiety created by technology is never a good output. Technology is supposed to make our lives easier, not harder, and definitely not in a trajectory that it would impact severely on our health and lifestyle.
My last syndrome Nomophobia basically refers to the fear of being out of a mobile phone. According to a study in UK, 53% of mobile phone users feel anxious when their phones run out of battery, credit or have no network coverage. The study also shows that one in two never switches off their phones (Dixit et al., 2010). I tick all of these symptoms. My heart would start racing and palms sweating with the thought “Where am I? How do I get back to where I know if my mobile phone is dead?” as soon as my mobile runs down to 1 bar of battery. Or, my anxiety would hit the roof if I don’t see my mobile phone within my peripheral vision with the thought that I might miss an important call (this seems to be related to the above Phantom Ringing Syndrome).
So how did I get myself to this stage? There would be a million reasons. But perhaps the real question should be how could I get myself out of it?
Don’t get me wrong. I am definitely not anti-technology or anti-digital lifestyle. I am all for technology and its good stuff, especially when it helps to speed up work processes, increase productivity and improve access to resources. While it is fabulous in its own way, it does bring a few ‘negative perks’. For example, instead of talking to your colleague who sits two desks away, we decide to send an email. Instead of calling to congratulate a friend on an important achievement, we tend to like a Facebook post, most of the time without even making a comment.
The key thing in living the digital life is how we can maximise the positive effects. One rule to help maintain the boundary with technology is that when it comes to relationships and bonds, keep the traditional forms of communication – verbal, physical and emotional if possible.
So here are a few tips that could assist you in managing a healthy digital life:
- Mobile phone ban at dinners – not just the kids, the adults too. Meal time is the most important time for family to get together and connect. So why not start a conversation and enjoy that time rather than checking your phone?!
- Stop being available 24/7 – you are a human, not a machine. And even a machine needs a reboot sometimes. So take a break from social media platforms, internet browsing, and especially your mobile phone during your time with loved ones.
- Internet is not the answer to everything – trust your intuition and gut instinct at times with the way you process your work and information. Web searching and internet browsing for everything is not going to solve the problems unless you create a platform of set beliefs and experiences for yourself. Inspiration can come from information all over the world but the original work comes from your creativity using your own awesome machine, your brain.
- Skip the check-in – stay away from the morning and night checks on emails, Facebook or Instagram, or every 5 minutes when your notifications set off. It is an unnecessary habit that reduces your productivity and definitely interferes with your concentration and getting back into the flow of work or whatever activity you are doing.
- Focus on the important things – turn off your social media notifications especially during your normal routines like work shifts, exercise, sleep and meal time. It might feel like you’re missing out as things are happening around you on the online world. But the truth is, you only miss out when you have not learnt a new skill or have not done something you’ve always wanted to or would enjoy doing. So pick up a hobby to keep your mind and hands off technology as it might help you more with important aspects of your life.
This blog should take you 5 to 10 minutes to read. That should be enough for a break with a cup of tea or coffee before you get back to your work or personal activity. Enjoy that break and remember not to catch any new digital world syndromes by creating your own healthy digital life.