Telephones, once hailed as the modus operandi for communicating, may be subject to a coup d’etat. In one poll, 32 percent of those who responded said they preferred texting over talking on the phone. And the numbers reflect this. Compared to the year 2000, where the number of texts sent monthly in the U.S. was 14 billion, 2010 showed over 188 billion texts per month! We have woken up to discover that the way we communicate has been carried aloft almost like a tornado. We can no longer “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”; technology is here to stay.
There are several reasons that we have entered this Land of Oz, and why we may have lost our ability to return to Kansas. For one, technology gives us the promise of connectedness. We can communicate with people in another country, state, city, or down the street.
Technology has chipped away at the great divide that geography used to pose. Texting and emailing also allows us to keep it short and sweet to better optimize our time, as well as to review the messages prior to sending.
We have all come to recognize the positive contributions of today’s technology, but there are problems we must keep a watch on every day:
—Sleep disturbances. Texting can throw a wrench in our slumber,
including lost sleep, difficulty falling asleep, poor sleep quality,
or daytime sleepiness. This can occur because of late night beeps or
dings or if the messages are stressful or emotional.
—Motor vehicle deaths and accidents. Texting while driving has been
estimated to cause 200,000 collisions a year and currently
contributing to the leading cause of death of our American teen
—Email apnea. This newly coined term describes the shallow breathing
or breath holding that occurs subconsciously when we email, or work or
play in front of a screen. The end result: an increase in our stress
levels that impact our attitude, sense of emotional well-being, and
ability to work effectively.
—Anxiety. The constant dinging and bell tones every couple of minutes
makes it difficult to be in a proper state of mind. Not to be outdone
by “textiety” which is the anxious feeling of not receiving any texts
or not being able to send any texts.
—“BlackBerry thumb.” This is the modern malady and side effect that
has come about from our text-happy society. Our thumbs have fewer
joints than our other fingers and are not designed to be in constant
motion while bent at an odd angle. The end result: inflammation in the
tendons and the joints causing aches and stiffness. Down the road,
this can result in arthritis.
Let’s take a look at some helpful tips to unplug your gadgets and
reconnect with yourself, family and friends — also referred to as a
—Provide advance warning so you and your family can prepare mentally.
—Clarify your goals: what you will do and how long you will do it.
—Start when your children are young so they can develop interpersonal skills.
—Be clear on the rules. Are there exceptions for work or homework?
What will happen if there is a violation?
—Make the bedroom and meals a media-free zone.
—Don’t multitask. When watching television, watch television. Allow
only one screen at a time and shut off your smartphone, tablet, and
—And make the promise to never text, email or become distracted with
your phone or computer while driving.
Dorothy clicked her ruby red heels three times to return to Kansas. We may no longer have that ability to leave the Wonderful Land of Oz.
Technology, much like the wizard is comprised of “the Great and Terrible.” So we must learn to balance the best of both worlds.
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Dr. Nina Radcliff is dedicated to her profession, her patients and her community, at large. She is passionate about sharing truths for healthy, balanced living as well as wise preventive health measures.
She completed medical school and residency training at UCLA and has served on the medical faculty at The University of Pennsylvania. She is a Board Certified Anesthesiologist and a member of the American Society of Anesthesiologists where she serves on committees for Young Physicians and Communications. Author of more than 200 textbook chapters, research articles, medical opinions and reviews; she is often called upon by media to speak on medical, fitness, nutrition, and healthy lifestyle topics impacting our lives, today.