In an effort to help my fibro symptoms before my birthday, I decided to try a five-day experiment on how technology affects your health. I vowed to unplug for two hours in the afternoon and do something quiet. That meant reading books, reading magazines, doing crossword puzzles and otherwise avoiding anything technological. I’ll be honest and say the first day was hard. You get so used to living a certain way, a change like this can seem drastic.
However, I kept reminding myself I was doing this for two reasons: to help my body get back on track and so I could write about the experience. After all, when I emailed my naturopath and a few other people, they were ecstatic to hear about it. So I couldn’t help but think, maybe other people would want to hear about my experiment, too. The time slips past us so fast as we stare at screens, we forget that we are creative, expressive beings and require time to enjoy making things that give us value. Besides, this is one experiment that doesn’t cost a cent. It’s important, when you are chronically ill or in pain, to try things that are limited or require no financial commitment.
Think for a moment: how many books could you read in the time you spend looking at screens? How many paintings could you paint in that time? How many pages of a book could you write in that time? How many alterations of a dress or outfit could you make in that time?
Can technology have negative effects? Screens, screens, and more screens
We go to work and sit behind screens for a couple of hours a day to earn a paycheque, then go home and relax behind what? Screens! Streaming services, Youtube, audiobooks, podcasts, social media. For those of us who have home-based businesses or work remotely, we are behind a screen for the entire day. Then some of us have before bed routines that involve phones or tablets, even though sleep experts say that’s a no-no.
No wonder western society feels so overwhelmed and anxious. No wonder we have mental health issues and headaches. There’s no rest. Our ears and eyes are bombarded all our waking hours by images and chatter (that sometimes have no real meaning). This is a particular concern for the Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), like myself. We are already overstimulated by our own inner world, and the environment and folks around us, we’re burning ourselves out being hyperstimulated by everything else.
How technology affects your health
As a result of this, we’re having issues getting good sleep, being active enough, communicating well, and have trouble focusing on tasks. It seems technology has trained us to answer, without hesitation, every tweet, message, email, text, and notification that appears on phones, laptops, and tablets. Technology has changed the way children’s brains develop and how they learn. It also makes an impact on the teen social scene for Generation Z and the twentysomething scene for Millenials.
It seems that society has also gotten angrier because of miscommunication between people. It’s hard to decipher the tone and context of a conversation with words or emojis. Sure, you can Skype, Facetime or dial a number and call someone. Doing this, you can hear their voice and see their body language. Although it’s not quite the same as sitting or standing face to face in real life. That genuine intimacy between people, between humans, has been lost in the last couple of decades.
How technology affects sleep
In no time has sleep been more sacrificed. With phones and tablets, it’s easy to cart them to bed with us and keep us up until 3 am. Being an HSP and a fibromite, I need my sleep (otherwise I’m a very moody woman!). The lights on our screens are wreaking havoc on our sleep cycles and keeping us indoors more often, away from the sun (and that important Vitamin D that helps with sleep and is found to be lower in fibromites!).
Lack of sleep, or poor quality sleep, for long periods of time, leads to a number of health problems like diabetes, heart conditions, struggles with weight, vulnerability to colds and flu, and a decrease in mental clarity and intelligence. Work production also suffers and there are more accidents pertaining to someone asleep at the wheel or machine. Burnout is also frequent in these cases and requires long periods of time off for individuals to rest and recuperate. No amount of sleep aids, or good diet and exercise, can help you if you’re not winding down before bed with quiet activities and saying no to screens before you fall asleep.
What I learned from a week of no technology
When I took the time away from technology, I felt a little less fatigued, the pain decreased a little and I had a little more energy. The first day, I’ll be honest. It was hard. I so wanted to just skip it and get back to the screen before me, but I promised myself that for the sake of my health I would commit to the week. Besides, I vowed to make my 29th year about experiences and this one was the first ‘challenge’ or experience I had in mind. I reminded myself it was only five days. Five days, not five weeks, months, or years.
I’d never been very good at finishing things – I have hundreds of novels yet to see the light of day. I don’t know if this is because of me being a Highly Sensitive individual or an introvert, or being a Virgo, but it’s not one of my favourite traits. Another trait that I will admit I suffer from is negative comparison.
Is the internet bad for your health?
When you have chronic illness/pain it doesn’t help that you don’t feel up to taking part in social media comparisons, that you don’t have the energy to put your best face forward. So you just don’t bother and then you envy the social media feeds filled with people having a great time. Envy and jealousy are what I experience often enough, but oddly not when I perused fashion magazines during screen breaks. I indulged myself with the art of photography and luxurious garments and jewellery the models wore. Maybe it’s this ‘even’ ground of social media, where everyone’s pitted against each other in looks or luxury lifestyle, every minute of the day, that breeds contempt for everyone else.
This constant obsession with looks causes undue stress on women. No wonder women are more likely to fall to chronic stress conditions like fibro or CFS. We’re never giving ourselves grace, never being nice to ourselves. If having fibro, and taking screen breaks has taught me anything, it’s to enjoy the silence once in a while.
This is a guest post from Ivi J. Virgo, cat mom, fibromite, tea drinker with a penchant for British mysteries and Orlando Bloom. Twitter: ivi_j90 Pinterest: I.J.