Well Being

Why Smartphones Are Not So Smart For Your Health

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I think smartphones are making people dumb.

Now before you go off on a rant about how you can't live without your iPhone, or the fact that you have your “life” stored on it in the form of 300 contacts, 400 songs and 500 photos, not to mention apps that allow you to calculate your heart rate while simultaneously purchasing a skinny latte, hear me out: Smartphones have turned into an obsession. How do I know? I have conducted my own very scientific research which consisted of sitting in a restaurant one day and simply watching people.

From the couple sitting next to me to the teens at the table across the room to the guy across from me (my husband, no less), everyone was more focused on their smartphone than anything–or anyone–else. Why do they think they are so important that they can't go through an entire meal without checking their email, posting their status on Facebook (like anyone really cares that they're eating a chicken enchilada right now anyway) and checking on the weather, the sports scores, the news or listening to an extensive library of flatulence sounds (yes, there's an app for that)?

Not only are people zoning out and becoming more socially-challenged, but new research as reported in USA Today suggest they are becoming sleep-deprived, anxiety-ridden smartphone addicts:

For some, the anxious feeling that they might miss something has caused them to slumber next to their smartphones. More than a third of U.S. adults—35 percent—now own a smartphone, according to the Pew Research Center, and two-thirds of them sleep with their phones right next to their beds.

Not only does bringing your iPhone or Blackberry into the bedroom impede sexual encounters (in fact, 33% of us would rather give up sex than our smart phones according to a previous study), answering a barrage of emails, texting and surfing the Web can prevent you from winding down at night and getting a good night's sleep.

Michael Breus, a psychologist and sleep specialist adds:

This behavior can increase cognitive arousal, leading to the No. 1 complaint I hear: ‘I can't turn off my mind and fall asleep'.

And we all know how a lack of sleep can have negative implications on our work, our relationships, our stress levels and our health.

Aside from generating fatigue, smartphones can also trigger anxiety. As with any addiction or obsession, being away from it will almost certainly cause separation anxiety, according to researchers at the Ericsson ConsumerLab, who also stated that without access, people who have become overly dependent on smartphone “can no longer handle their daily routine.”

So while many of us are guilty of logging onto Facebook first thing in the morning, tweeting while on a date or checking our email while using the restroom, where do we draw the line at being connected with our online life and being disconnected with real life?

How social media obsessed are you?

Photo: New York Daily News