Why You Should Unplug

As I type this, there are two computers, a tablet, and a smartphone within 2 feet of me. All are mine, and two other tablets are in another room. There are twice as many televisions in our home as there are people. I’m super plugged in, and it shows. How? I’m tired, it’s not always easy to fall asleep, and my vision isn’t getting any better.

Why are we so plugged in? What leads teenagers to sleep with their cell phones and not silence the alerts? Recently I read about the FOMO Syndrome. That stands for “Fear of Missing Out.” Fear of missing out on what?

A few years ago, one of my stepchildren was being grounded. The worst punishment in the world was assigned. The teen’s phone, tablet, and computer were removed for 24 hours. GASP! There was yelling, tears, and threats from the mouth of the teen. What was the big deal? My husband and I asked, “What is it that makes this the worst thing ever?” …and we were told that without access to the teen’s Twitter feed there would be so many updates, stories, pictures, and other super important posts missed that life after punishment would be miserable. Apparently, the world was going to go on turning for everyone but the grounded kid.

It’s not just teenagers. It’s us. They learn it from watching us.

This is bad, y’all. It’s not good for us to be reachable all the time. It’s physically (medically) inadvisable. You can Google any of the things below to check my accuracy, but I promise I’m not making this up:

  1. It makes our cortisol levels increase. This is scientifically proven. Google it, or trust that I’m not a liar.
  2. Blue light is going to blind us all, and you’re being impacted by it right now. It reaches farther into the eye and damages the retina. Use blue light glasses even if you don’t have a prescription- you can get plain lenses with blue light filters.
  3. Exposure to light reduces the production of melatonin. That’s the hormone that helps you to fall asleep and stay asleep. Sleeping problems? Reduce your exposure to light from “screen” devices.
  4. Eye fatigue is real, and is part of this light exposure problem. The super-technical color spectrum you see indicates light wavelength. To boil it down, long wavelengths (reds) are okay; short wavelengths (blue and UV) are bad. Why is this just now a “thing?” Because 10-15 years ago we had phones but we were not glued to them constantly.
  5. When people are utilizing devices, as a general rule, they are stationary. Sitting for extended periods of time is bad for you. The more plugged in you are, the less on-the-move you are. In preparation for this blog post, I read a study that determined every hour invested in sitting and watching TV reduces a person’s life by 22 minutes. It’s surprising we’re both sitting here.
  6. Being accessible to an employer 24 hours a day is not a good idea. Working excessive hours is linked to depression, the development of diabetes and other diseases. Also, your cognitive function decreases when your body does not have proper recovery time from work and technological interaction.
  7. Conversation skills decrease. Texting is not talking. I’ve heard people communicate that they “talked with” someone, when, in fact, there was only a text exchange.
  8. Social anxiety increases, especially for anyone in the pre-adult phase. In the 80’s and 90’s, I remember the feeling of freedom after school when I was out of the public eye. Thanks to social networking, we are never out of the public eye, and according to my stepchild during the teenage years, being inaccessible to public opinion ruins lives. (p.s.- The grounding victim is now in the early 20’s and I’m happy to report suffered no long-term effects from 24 hours off of Twitter.)

Many people have unplugging plans, take technology-free vacations, and use a curfew system to help reduce exposure to themselves and family. Whatever tactic you decide, it’s a good idea to at very least contemplate the benefits of unplugging.

This blog was written two weeks ago. I’m currently unplugged and with my family. Take this week as a good excuse to do the same, or find another week that works for you… or at very least, 48 hours.

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