Embarrassing confession: I don’t own a smartphone.
To make calls, I use a 10-year-old little red Nokia.
Because I’ve got a repetitive strain injury. And using a phone that only allows me to make calls and send very short texts is one really big way I cut down on the taps and types, swipes and scrolls and poor body positioning that contributes to my pain.
I usually reach my digital-device-use limit at work, so I’ve actively chosen to go off-line in my outside-the-office-and-home-time.
My repetitive strain injury is more than 10 years old. The pain became unbearable while I was working in a collaborative workspace, exclusively on a laptop.
At the time, I didn’t know that sitting bent over a laptop keyboard, using only its touchpad to create PowerPoint presentations was not a good idea. Poor workstation set up, bad posture, long hours and few breaks left me with a repetitive strain injury that still flares up every time I overdo it on any digital device.
Things are more under control these days. I know what good workstation set up is and how to apply best-case-scenario set up wherever I’m working.
I also know that taking breaks frequently and doing some dynamic movement during those breaks is really important. And I use every means possible to bring digital downtime into my life, including foregoing the smartphone.
Part of the problem is me. I’m a keen doer, so when there’s work to be done, I do it, as fast as possible. This is why I know I can’t trust myself to limit my smartphone use if I did have one. Twitter would call to me. Email would beckon. News feeds would sing like the Sirens.
So I’ve removed temptation completely.
Instead, I’ve stuck with good old red. It sends texts, receive calls and works fine after being dropped down a flight of stairs. Repeatedly.
Your body needs downtime
Our musculoskeletal system needs downtime to function well. Marathon runners and other serious athletes know this. “…not taking enough time to fully recover after a marathon often leads to overtraining and injuries,” according to coaching company Runners Connect.
Just like a marathon runner will take time away from training to give her muscles a rest, so too must computer users. Spending all day bent over our devices isn’t good for our bodies. We need to start thinking of digital device use as a physical activity and allow our bodies recovery time from doing it.
Your brain needs downtime too
Turns out my old phone isn’t just good for my body; it’s good for my brain too.
Taking time off-line means my brain has time to daydream. This downtime is important according to neuroscientist Daniel J Levitin in his book The Organized Mind because it helps our brains to be more effective when we need them to be.
But we have to make time to daydream. I choose to let it be the time I spend on the train to work and walking down the street and many other moments I might have spent scrabbling around on-line.
I appreciate that asking most people to give up their smartphones is akin to asking them to leave their dominant hand at home. So I’m gently suggesting that you think about the toll that constantly being on-screen is having on your body and your mind, and try to cut back a bit.
Everything in moderation. It applies to your digital device use too.
Follow Raquel Baetz on Twitter: www.twitter.com/SafeHandsDSE