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If your first act of the day is to turn on your iPad or tablet and the last thing you do at night is to look at your computer, or even at your cell phone, you could be a digital addict. Numerous studies have linked extreme tech use to uncontrollable cravings for wanting more screen time, or answering messages, or documenting everything people do. It is not hard to enter a restaurant and see all members of a family at their table staring at the cellphone. But what happens when the complexity of permanent global interconnections starts to generate health and social relationship problems?
Liza Pitsirilos, a Pritikin Longevity Center yoga instructor in Miami and Los Angeles, and lifestyle expert defines it as digital intoxication, a dependence on a sensation that comes along with loads of technology contact. “We always think that dependence is only to a substance, like a drug or alcohol, but screen time is similar. Tech devices create a chemical reaction that happens in the body, and that your body finds pleasurable.”
Constant tech exposure triggers the need to respond to email messages, tweets or blog posts the minute you receive them. Immediately, the human body releases hormones that recreate behavioral addiction. “What we are seeing in new research is that when people are interacting with technology they crave for more. Behaviors that involve pleasure can develop addiction if they are not well balanced. The body releases dopamine.
Scholarly studies have linked the obsessive use of electronic devices, with a sense of not being able to disconnect from them. The University of Maryland researched college students who manifested anxiety when being forced to leave electronics behind. In the 2010 study, many college students, selected from different universities in the United States, felt anxious and lonely without their cellphones. For many people, not having electronic communication has become unbearable. Lolo Evans, co-facilitator of the Pritkin Center Detox Program explains. “Generational shifts and how technology is changing the way people are connected is creating substantial change in the way people socialize, the important thing is not to let technology rule people. We need quality relations and quality of life and many elements can be red flags for digital intoxication.
Increased tech stress happens by using without limits tech devices in bed, when neck pain or eye limitations develop, or when anxiety is felt without technology. “People even feel vibrations when away from their phones, like if the phone is still there!” emphasizes Evans. “If you check your feeds more than once per hour, refresh your email every minute, have more than one technical device within reach all day and to the extreme, if there is a fire you feel like you will go in and rescue your laptop! Those are all red flags.
Liza Pitsirilos and Lolo Evans work with individuals, companies and schools to train them on how to use technology wisely and how technology it is evolving with humanity. “Generation Y or Millennials were lucky enough to see the change from not having technology 24/7 to now, Generation X and Baby Boomers still know very well how to make and enjoy social connections outside from the internet. Technology should enhance connections,” they explain.
Overdoing screen time not only can create psychological and social problems, but very serious disease. Screen apnea is one that has been identified recently. According to Linda Stone, former Microsoft and Apple Executive, it is generated by the way we lean forward to read our email or watch the screen, which is not proper posture and blocks healthy breathing. Stone is the creator of “The Attention Project”, which explores “the physiology of our relationship with technology and how our relationship with technology can evolve.
But detoxification is possible according to Liza Pitsirilos and Lolo Evans; we should stand or make a pause every twenty minutes and do an activity without a tech device in our hands, and also take twenty-second breaks from screen time to reconnect and refocus our eyesight. A great way is to plan our technology time, “Don’t open 15 windows in your laptop at a time, it creates stress and anxiety, make and plan for your tech time and stick to it,” adds Evans.
“Reconnect back to your breath.” Says Pitsirilos. “It resets the nervous system and prolongs your life. It replenishes and blends breath with movement. Check out yoga for example. It provides physical strength, toning of the muscles and builds internal self-confidence to align really to who you are.” Without doubt, balance is all. Even in our technology plagued world. ■