My patient, a retired teacher, looked embarrassed as he said it.
“I don’t have a smartphone. I don’t have a computer.”
I had to check the readings — somehow, despite this lack of technology in his life, his heart rate was perfectly normal. His oxygen reading was also in the normal range. Skin color looked perfectly healthy. He even wore a smile on his face.
Quickly, trying to keep him from noticing, my brain went into full-speed investigation mode.
“How is this medically possible? A human being who meets all criteria for being alive yet is not connected to technology? Worse yet, he doesn’t seem to carry guilt over this lack of technology, nor is he concerned about what he is missing. Should I consult psychiatry? Is this worthy of a case report for the medical literature?”
One of the gifts we get with each new year is reassessing our health and what we want to invest our time and energy into doing.
This includes technology and, more specifically, the screens that humans are more and more likely to be staring at in the check-out line as they drive and at any moment of pause in their day. My mom shared how recently, in her choir practice, it was odd that people didn’t connect with each other during the breaks but pulled out their 2 x 4-inch screens to “connect.”
Indeed, our smartphones and other devices have downsides that we should take time to consider. Sleep disturbances, anxiety and depression, and increased stress levels have been linked to those with “problematic cell phone use.” And a few numbers to consider, courtesy of Exploding Topics.
47 percent of the population in the United States with smartphones admit to being addicted to their devices. Meanwhile, Americans check their smartphone 352 times per day, quadrupling since before the pandemic in 2019.
71 percent of people spend more time on their phones than with their romantic partners.
And finally, 1 in 5 car accidents are caused by cell phone use.
The bottom line is that as technology has rapidly taken over our world and lives, we need to constantly assess our tech health and consider how technology affects our overall health.
OK, are you ready to assess your tech health?
Here is a list of questions that you can answer. You might even write them down on paper using ink.
What are the positive and negative ways that technology use is affecting my health?
How much of my life energy do I want consumed by and lived through screens (phone, computer, tablet, TV, etc.) in 2023?
What healthy amount of consumption and living do I want to do through these devices this year?
Is there someone in my life that I feel models this healthy level of consumption? What is their strategy?
What is being squeezed out of my life by these devices?
Would I be content if my phone was at 0 percent battery but at 100 percent now?
Am I more connected or disconnected from myself and those around me because of technology?
How is my house dealing with the above questions in theory and practice for those with children?
Assuming we identify places and ways we want to improve our tech health, now is a great chance to make some changes for 2023.
Put a basket in your house entrance where phones are to be placed as you walk in.
Take a day a week that is screen free for the entire family.
Work actively to take control of your technology (starting with the phones we call “smart”) instead of the other way around.
You might even channel my patient’s smile and contentment with his low-tech life. Again, if you can trust me on this, he seemed to be doing quite fine as a medical professional.