Infomania Could Be Making You Sick

Martina New

Technology and today’s widespread connectivity that is available any hour of the day, any day of the week and year, is supposed to make our lives more convenient and help reduce our workload and previously more time-consuming tasks. The truth is, it might actually be making many of us sick!

In a Global and Mail article on 29 March 2014, feature writer Erin Anderssen shared an eye-opening investigative piece in a week-long series on digital overload. In it, she shows the growing scientific evidence that indicates our state of distraction and “unchecked infomania” adds to making us physically and mentally ill.

Research from multiple experts at Stanford University, including experts on technology and distraction, shows that the convenience of constant connectedness has become a stress factor, and often even an addiction. The seduction of beeping or flashing cell phones, smart phones, e-mail, and social media sites is all too often irresistible. Yet, even though we seem to think otherwise, life does go on even if we don’t check and respond immediately to those interruptions. When we do, we’re paying less attention to the things that truly enrich our lives and in ways that electronic addictions rarely or never can do. Too often we allow devices to disrupt the flow of a good conversation, dinner with friends or family, playtime with our children or a relaxing walk with our dog, or even disturbing our personal quiet time or much-needed sleep.

Stanford’s Calming Technology Lab reveals that obsessive visits to Facebook have been linked to eating disorders and depression in teenage girls. In adults, dealing with never-ending e-mails or conducting web searches can cause users to take shorter breaths, or even hold their breath. This is called Screen apnea.

Here is my confession: while I do not consider myself a device addict, I do experience screen apnea whenever I hyper-focus for a long time on computer work, or when I flit between e-mail, web searches, and computer documents that I need to finish in a rush. My breathing becomes shallow, changes from a healthy diaphragmatic `belly breath` to a hectic – and to my body unsatisfying – short chest breath. When I leave it unchecked for too long, I suffer increased tension and stress symptoms by the end of the day.

Researchers at Kings College Institute of Psychiatry in London found that constant e-mail and social media use (unchecked infomania) even resulted in a temporary drop in the IQ of their study participants. Another survey shows that 22 per cent of adults have walked into obstacles while distracted by texting!

We laugh, but how often a day do you have to swerve around a walking texter, or even witnessed a pedestrian almost stepping out into traffic because they’re not paying attention at an intersection? I see both with disturbing regularity!

Anderssen`s article closes with the suggestion that we should think less about time management and instead consider more attention management. With that said, I will quickly submit this blog by e-mail, and then step away from my computer to make and enjoy a nice cup of tea.
Source: Anderssen, Erin. “Digital overload: How we are seduced by distraction”, Globe and Mail, 29 March 2014, F1.

Martina Rowley is the founder and operator of Beach Business Hub – THE co-working space east of the Don Valley. She combined her passion and experience in the environmental sector with her community engagement side to create a local work environment where space and resources are shared. She fosters and facilitates collaboration, networking, and learning for and with small business owners and new start-ups. Contact her at:, on Facebook and on Twitter

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