Computers and smartphones are now an integral part of our daily lives. We use them for working, entertaining, escaping or communicating. We all live in a connected world, and whether in our personal or professional sphere, it is difficult not to use digital technology.
This tool has obviously made our lives easier, the amount that we use them can be excessive or inappropriate and entail risks of mental overload or ‘burnout’. This is why it is especially important to think about our use and abuse of technology.
Most of us work on a computer for several hours per day.
This has already been the case for a number of years.
What has changed since the start of the pandemic – with the widespread move to working from home and social distancing – is that some of us have even more difficulty than before in switching off from our working lives, but moreover that a large part of our social lives and leisure activities are also reliant on computers and smartphones.
What is hyperconnectivity?
It is the abusive use of both new technologies and the time we dedicate to these technologies.
It is also the lack of respect for rest and leisure time, family time and time dedicated to social activities, holidays…
This phenomenon can sometimes be experienced as an irresistible need to be connected to the internet and to social networks, cutting us off from our other activities and social relationships.
According to a survey by the April foundation, 7 French people out of 10 are incapable of coping without connected technologies for more than one day, whether in their professional or personal lives.
What are the risks of hyperconnectivity?
One month ago, a survey (Odaxe) about the effects of the lockdown on the health of French citizens placed solitude (81%) and hyperconnectivity (79%) as the biggest risk associated with homeworking ahead of smoking, alcohol, cannabis and use of medications.
– Impacts on our physical health:
Firstly, brain overload and the diffusion of blue light by smartphone and tablet computer screens can alter our biological clock, changing our sleep patterns which over the long term may lead to sleep disorders. Hyperconnected people therefore often suffer from night waking or early waking, difficulties in falling asleep, and/or have poor quality sleep. Now many screens have filters against blue light, but on older screens these are not available and they are not always activated.
Being connected all day can cause visual fatigue and/or headaches. In some people whose exposure is excessive, this can lead to persistent eye dryness, or even inflammation of the retina and the lens.
When we are permanently connected, we become more and more sedentary. We spend more time on screens and less time moving and doing physical activities. Sometimes, even during meals, our eyes are kept riveted to our screens. Our attention is absorbed by a virtual tool and not by the pleasure of eating and the sensation of fullness. Problems with excess weight and its possible consequences for our cardio-vascular health, muscular tension and the appearance of MSD (musculoskeletal disorders) become more frequent.
– Impacts on our mental health:
Hyperconnectivity has numerous effects on our mental health.
Firstly, over-stimulation by notifications, the fear of missing out on information, and the subsequent mental load are a source of stress for our brain. Our capacity to concentrate also decreases, as does our productivity. Other effects such as irritability, addiction, cognitive overload and exhaustion can also be felt by hyperconnected people.
The signs to watch out for:
– You feel more stressed, more tired, more irritable.
– You feel like you no longer have enough time for yourself.
– Your sleep is not fully restful (night waking, poor sleep quality).
– You feel isolated (loss of social contact, poorer quality relationships, conflicts).
– You are dependent on your devices (you cannot do without them).
If you feel as though you are familiar with one or more of these signs, test yourself. This is the first step to becoming aware of your behaviour with regard to screens. Ask yourself how dependent you are on your screen and assess how long you spend on it/them each day (in both your work and your home life).
What Camille, our resident sophrologist, recommends for a reasonable and balanced connected life
– In your professional life: adopt good habits!
When working from home it is important to establish healthy habits mainly to prevent MSD*, reduce your eye fatigue and lighten your mental load.
Here are a few tips:
– Prevent MSD* by paying attention to your posture, practicing stretches and relaxation.
– Lighten your mental load by taking breaks from your screen; even micro-breaks can be very beneficial…
– Set specific working hours, a routine and rituals.
– Improve your concentration and your efficiency by focusing on one task at a time. In order to do this, for example: set your telephone to “do not disturb” mode, establish a timetable for checking your emails …
– Organize the end of your day around you and your loved ones (set an alarm, switch off and put away your computer…)
– In your personal life: reconnect to yourself!
The April foundation asked a sample of test subjects what they would do with the time they saved if they disconnected from their devices. Read, walk, practice sport or even relax and rest were the most popular activities. What would you do with the time you saved?
Here are a few tips for taking back control:
– Set a daily programme of 30 minutes of physical or sports activity.
– Adopt a digital curfew 1 to 2 hours before going to bed.
– Avoid eating while staring at a screen and turn your attention to what you are eating, or the person you are eating with.
– Learn to relax and to recharge your batteries: try taking a mini-siesta, practice yoga, meditation or sophrology…
– Take back control of your timetable by choosing to practice activities which really interest you and do you good in your spare time (reading, fitness training, sport, outings, cookery …)
–Social and family life: reconnect to your loved ones!
All studies show that creating more time for yourself and others fosters feelings of calm, makes people more creative and more productive. So really enjoy moments spent with your loved ones – build quality moments by limiting the use of your smartphone or tablet when you are not alone. When you are in a family environment with your children, remember also that you are their role model. Don’t spend all that time on your screen yourself!
So in order to limit the time you spend on screens, everything must be based on healthy habits. Whether in your professional life or in your social and family life, everything starts with positive habits and a healthy lifestyle.