The impact of technology on our social, mental, physical and environmental health can be devastating if we don’t keep ourselves in check. There’s no denying the benefits we have gained from technological advancements, but as with all things in life moderation is key. Being aware of the harmful aspects of the overuse of electronics will help you avoid any unnecessary pitfalls. We have also compiled a list of reading material that delves deeper into this relatively new area of study.
Cyber Junkie: Escape the Gaming and Internet Trap
Internet Addiction: A Handbook and Guide to Evaluation and Treatment
Caught in the Net: How to Recognize the Signs of Internet Addiction–and a Winning Strategy for Recovery
The Digital Diet: The 4-step plan to break your tech addiction and regain balance in your life
iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession with Technology and Overcoming Its Hold on Us
Here are 25 negative effects technology can have:
Social isolation is characterized by a lack of contact with other people in normal daily living, such as, the workplace, with friends and in social activities. We isolate ourselves by walking around in our own little world, listening to our iPods or staring at the screen of the latest mobile device even when we are around other people. Studies have shown that people who are socially isolated will live shorter lives.
2. Lack of Social Skills
The use of online social media outlets causes us to meet face-to-face with much less frequency resulting in a lack of much needed social skills. We lose the ability to read body language and social cues in other people.
The more time people are spending engrossed in video games, talking to friends online and watching funny cat videos on YouTube, they are spending less time being active or exercising. Also the likelihood of mindlessly eating unhealthy food increases as people are hypnotized by the latest episode of Honey Boo Boo.
Technology creates the perfect recipe for depression with the lack of human contact, overeating and lack of exercise. There is a reason the use of antidepressants are on the rise and the blame can’t be completely dumped on the pharmaceutical companies. They aren’t carting people into the doctor’s office and force feeding them the pills. This isn’t to say that depression isn’t a real problem, but some people could cure their depression by living a healthier lifestyle.
5. Poor Sleep Habits
Some of the negative effects of technology can be linked to the effect it has on sleep habits. We get sucked into online activities that keep us up too late and the constant stream of information can make it difficult to turn off our brains. Also, the ambient glow from screens can affect the release of melatonin, the sleep chemical. Keeping technology out of the bedroom would be a very healthy habit to acquire.
With the rapid-changing world of electronics and technology, the turnover rate for upgrades is staggering. This constant stream of out with the old, in with the new is adding to the levels of toxicity in our air and land. E-waste is not always disposed of properly, causing deadly chemicals to leach into the ground. Plants that manufacture the electronics are emitting toxic fumes into the air. Plus there is little to no regulations on the disposal of personal E-waste.
7. Increased Bullying
The use of technology has caused an increase in bullying and escalated the degree of severity. Kids are no longer able to escape their tormentors once they reach the safety of their own homes. Bullies infiltrate the security of their victims’ homes through online avenues. It is also easier to get more kids involved in bullying because people are more likely to say things online that they wouldn’t say in person. The increase in cyber-bullying has also led to an increase in teen suicides.
8. Lack of Privacy
The internet has stripped the world of privacy. Long gone are the days of having an unlisted telephone number and staying offline to keep your information safe from prying eyes. With a few flicks on a keyboard the average person can find anyone’s address and contact information. For those with more sinister intentions, the use of phishing, viruses and hacking helps to find any information they wish to obtain. Plus, people have no sense of privacy online. They don’t think twice about tweeting every move they make, freely giving out their location on Google Map and putting their entire life story on Facebook.
9. Higher Level of Deceit
On the flip side of having no privacy, people use the internet to deceive others. Most people don’t dig too deeply when doing a search on someone to check them out. By creating a few false profiles, people are able to pretend to be whomever they want. People are being “catfished” on dating sites. Hell, you could be talking to someone on the FBI’s top ten most wanted list and not realize it until you see them getting arrested on the news.
10. Warped Sense of Reality
Using the internet as an escape from real life is very easy to do. In real life you only speak to a few people each day, there’s no Photoshop or avatar for the reflection in your mirror, bills must be paid and saying smartass things is frowned upon. However, online you are a freaking rock star! You have enough “friends” to form a small country, you look great in your pics or you have a kickass avatar, plus you get rewards or points for saying clever things (more if the clever thing is also mean-spirited). Unfortunately we must live in the real world whether we like it or not.
Constantly being “plugged in” and “connected” causes an extra layer of stress that wasn’t present before the overuse of technology.
12. Blackberry/iPhone Thumb
Tendonitis in the thumb, a.k.a. Blackberry/iPhone Thumb, is a form of repetitive strain injury caused by the frequent use of thumbs to press buttons on mobile devices. The same injury can also be obtained from playing too many video games.
13. Lack of Social Boundaries
Much in the same way that people over share on social media sites, there is an increasing tendency to cross social boundaries. Cyber stalking someone or sending unsolicited nude photos are examples of grossly crossing social boundaries.
14. Lack of Sexual Boundaries
Exposure to sexual content is more likely to happen at a much younger age. Before the internet the only chance a child had of being exposed to pornography was if their dad didn’t hide his Playboy magazine well enough. Now, well, let’s just say you pray your filters are doing their job when your kid searches for “Puss and Donkey” from Shrek.
Sexting is also a concern with technology being used at such a young age. There is no way in hell a girl would have taken a nude photo of herself and handed it to a guy before the popularity of texting. Yet, using your phone to snap a quick boob shot and texting it to your boyfriend seems to be no big deal. If you wouldn’t print the picture out and hand it to the guy, then you shouldn’t text it. And guys — girls do not want pictures of your penis. So stop sending them.
15. Lack of Social Bonds
Creating a lasting bond with other people requires face-to-face interaction. The more we isolate ourselves with technology the fewer bonds we will form. People are expected to do more work at home which takes away time they would be spending with their families. Also, younger people prefer communicating online versus face-to-face. When people are in the same room and communicating via text or instant messaging instead of speaking to each other, there’s a problem.
16. Constant Distraction
When we are focused on a device instead of what’s going on around us we miss a great deal. Think of the number of times you have been texting or talking to a friend and missed the opportunity to flirt with the hot guy standing beside you. There is also a rise in the number of injuries incurred by people texting while walking.
17. Neck and Head Pain
Constantly looking down at devices can cause neck pain and over time will cause the neck to lose its natural curve. Eyestrain can also cause headaches, blurred vision and migraines.
18. Shortened Attention Span
The use of social media has shortened our attention span from 12 minutes to 5 minutes. Constant news feeds, getting information in 140 characters and videos that are 10 minutes or less has literally rewired our brains. People who are online an average of 5 hours a day have trouble remembering people’s names, forget pots on the stove and even their own birthday.
People are not only dependent on technology they are also addicted to it. Studies have shown that when cell phones are taken away subjects heard or felt fathom vibrations, continuously reached for phones that weren’t there and became fidgety and restless. These are some of the same withdrawal symptoms you would expect from doing drugs.
20. Lack of Empathy
The constant stream of violent scenes on video games, TV, movies and YouTube causes people to become desensitized to destruction of any kind. The normalizing of bad things happening and the culture of narcissism created by social media creates a society of people who lack empathy. When people stop caring, the world goes to hell in a hand basket.
21. More Violence
After people lose empathy and are accustomed to violence, it becomes the social norm. Teenage girls are videoing themselves violently beating another girl; the number of school shootings are rising and videos of people attacking homeless people are a few examples of violent behavior caused by media.
22. Higher Energy Consumption
Although individual devices are becoming more energy efficient, the increased overall use is causing a higher consumption of energy. People don’t turn their devices off; they keep computers on or plugged in, mobile devices charging and televisions plugged in. Also manufacturing all of these high tech toys causes an increase in greenhouse gas emissions.
23. Developmental Issues in Children
Children are using more technology now than they have ever used in the past. All of the negative effects that social media and television is having on adults are far greater when it comes to the developing minds of children. There is no way to know what long term effect technology will have on our children because this is the first generation to have unlimited access.
Technology causes people to suffer from mental and emotional disturbances, such as anxiety, phobias and delusions, which are all symptoms of neurosis. Being convinced you’re very ill after looking up strange diseases on WebMD or thinking you are famous because you have had a viral video are a couple of ways technology neurosis manifests itself.
25. Loss of Hearing and Eyesight
Using headphones and ear buds can cause people to lose their hearing over time. Likewise, straining your eyes looking at computer and device screens can cause people to need glasses much earlier in life.
Be more mindful of the time you spend using technology. If you have longer conversations with Siri than you do with real people, it’s probably time to put the phone down. Force yourself to have an electronic-free day or weekend. When you go on vacation, don’t take your phone or at least put it on “do not disturb”. Creating balance will help you enjoy the benefits of technology without becoming a mindless internet zombie.