Why have you never heard of ‘Tech Hygiene’ before? And no, it’s not cleaning the crumbs out of your keyboard. Our new day-to-day routine has eliminated the need to leave the house in the morning, have quick breaks to switch meeting rooms or go for lunch, and socialize with society. The reality is that while tech has allowed us to stay connected, entertained, and to continue working in unprecedented times, its negative side effects aren’t spoken about as often as the latest and greatest features are. Believe it or not, there are healthy ways to interact with tech, and it’s within our control to institute these practices.
The effects of screen time on our mental health has been studied for years. Screen time has been shown to increase the prevalence of anxiety, depression, and attention deficit disorders, especially in youth and adolescents(1, 2, 3). All this time spent staring down at our screens has emerged as what some are calling ‘tech neck’, and researchers in Denmark found a strong association between screen time and spinal pain(4). The eyes, our windows to the ever-changing media on electronic screens are also a victim to extended screen time, so much so that digital eye strain (also known as computer vision syndrome) now affects at least 50% of computer users, causing vision stress and dry eye(5). Screen time also has negative impacts on our sleep by offsetting our circadian rhythm and delaying the production of melatonin(6). Digital devices affect nearly every part of our bodies and lives. One study even found that phubbing (the act of snubbing someone you’re talking with in person in favour of your phone) is negatively affecting our relationships and leading to decreased marriage satisfaction(7).
So what is ‘Tech Hygiene’ and what can you do about it?
‘Tech Hygiene’ is defined as healthy habits and practices with digital technology that can improve your productivity, mental and physical health. It sounds simple, but we all know the pull that technology can have on us. So, here are six ways you can improve your ‘Tech Hygiene’ today.
Build screen breaks into your daily routine.
Choose audio calls where possible, and practice short breaks where you can rest your mind and blink normally to refresh your eyes and beat digital eye strain. Learn here why blinks are a tiny rest period for your brain.
Practice the 20-20-20 rule.
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not only the blue light causing your headaches and eye strain after staring at the screen, it’s that when we focus on nearby objects our eye muscles are engaged and they relax when we focus farther away. To give your eyes a rest, every 20 minutes, stare at an object that is 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
Keep your phone out of the bedroom.
Getting an alarm clock can help keep you from checking those emails in the middle of the night, or scrolling through social media well past bed-time.
Perform a gut-check on your most-visited social media platforms.
Ask yourself “does this platform bring me joy, inspiration, or help me professionally?” and “which platforms bring me down?”. From there ensure you are limiting the platforms that are not helpful for your mental health.
Support your Circadian Rhythm.
Letting your skin get direct natural sunlight for 30 minutes within your first hour of waking, and limiting blue light exposure 2 hours before bedtime allows your circadian rhythm to function at its best(8).
Use temperature to your advantage.
As you are about to fall asleep, your body temperature naturally drops. Having a warm bath before bed allows your body to naturally lose heat, signaling that it’s time for sleep. Warming the area around the eyes can have a similar effect, by increasing the temperature of your hands and feet and consequently allowing the same cooling cascare to begin and signal sleep onset(9). REST allows you to conveniently warm your eyes before bed with the touch of a button.
At Umay, we envision a world where Tech Hygiene is a practice as common as dental hygiene (and by the way, more people in the world own cell phones than toothbrushes)(10). For more tech hygiene tips, join the waitlist at umay.rest.
- Lepp, A., Barkley, J., & Karpinski. (2013). The relationship between cell phone use, academic performance, anxiety and satisfaction with life in college students. SAGE Open, 5(1), 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1177/2158244015573169.
- Montagni, I., Guichard, E., & Kurth, T. (2016). Association of screen time with self-perceived attention problems and hyperactivity levels in French students: a cross-sectional study. BMJ Open, 6(2), 1–8. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2015-009089.
- Maras, D., Flament, M., Murray, M., Buchholz, A., Henderson, K., Obeid, N., & Goldfield, G. (2015). Screen time is associated with depression and anxiety in Canadian youth. Preventive Medicine, 73(Complete), 133-138. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ypmed.2015.01.029.
- Joergensen, A. C., Strandberg-Larsen, K., Andersen, P. K., Hestbaek, L., & Andersen, A. N. (2021). Spinal pain in pre-adolescence and the relation with screen time and physical activity behavior. BMC musculoskeletal disorders, 22(1), 393. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12891-021-04263-z
- Sheppard, A. L., & Wolffsohn, J. S. (2018). Digital eye strain: prevalence, measurement and amelioration. BMJ open ophthalmology, 3(1), e000146. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjophth-2018-000146
- Roberts, J. A., & David, M. E. (2016). My life has become a major distraction from my cell phone: Partner phubbing and relationship satisfaction among romantic partners. Computers in Human Behaviour, 54, 134-141. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2015.07.058
- Mead, N. M., (2008) Benefits of Sunlight: A Bright Spot for Human Health. Environmental Health Perspectives 116:4. CID: https://doi.org/10.1289/ehp.116-a160
- https://www.bentsoncopple.com/uploads/Cell Phones and Toothbrushes.pdf