Eyes narrow as devices grow thinner
Updated: Jul 11, 2018
There is nothing natural about a smartphone. But somehow it has grown to become an extension and perhaps may one day even become a part of us. God help us if that does happen. But as we move closer and closer to a cyborgian reality we must brace ourselves for the all too real consequences.
People all over the world are speaking of issues of headaches, jaw tension, eye strain, and even carpal tunnel syndrome. An all too consistent reminder that the devices we hold gingerly in our hands are perhaps causing harm while they confuse us in regards to connection.
When used with intention the internet can and does connect us in ways we never thought possible. But for others it is a form of escaping the dense fabric of real life which seems harder and harder to make contact with.
I find it helpful to understand what such devices are doing to us on an embodied level to help understand their true "negative" impact. Perhaps if we can understand these foreboding negative side effects of the internet we can offset it with better habits that could better connect us on all fronts.
Firstly, when we stare at a screen for too long our eyes tighten as a bi-product of needing to focus and also adapt to the sensors of light that are streaming at us. This tightening quite literally locks the eyes in a way that causes stress to the nervous system and also inhibits the neuor-tone to the muscles of the inner ear. This effects the upper potion of the face, and diminishes it's capacity to engage the co-regulatory part of our nervous system. The upper portion of the face literally houses the evolutionary response capabilities of the mylenated vagus nerve which helps to regulate heart rate, and also allows us to use the reciprocal dynamic of facial expressions to communicate cues of safety. Scientists like Stephen Porges have pointed to this "limited affect" in expression as something that we need to pay closer attention to particularly in regards to healing the collective trauma we face. (Reference Video-Stephen Porges and the Science of Saftey)
Eyes are important to our ability to relate and connect with others at the level of authenticity. Even the act of blinking has been shown to help support cognitive functioning. When reading for instance we tend to blink at the end of punctuation marks. This sends the signal to our brain which allows us to help integrate and process the information cognitively. So much of the data we receive through our screens is literally curated by our own impulsivity, which is often predicated on the saturation of information which incites "cues of danger". Our eyes quite literally help to regulate this dynamic through the natural reciprocity which we often find in authentic human interaction, or when engaged in activities that help to activate our hand/eye coordination through forms of craft, or sentient exploration. How can we fill these gaps of connection with our devices in a more sensually intelligent way? How can we offset the stream of data that is coming at us in the form of algorithmic signs, symbols, and advancing technology which moves faster than the subtleties of our sensitive nervous systems?
The internet is often flat, debilitatingly so. It confuses our minds and bodies' to feel that we are in co-regulatory dynamics when we are merely touching sensors on a screen, or sending a text not sure if the emoticon fits the emotion we truly feel.
We are water infused en-fleshed with a mysterious magic composed of life force energy longing to connect. New studies have also shown that tears themselves hold different geometric signatures which are formed based on the chemicals present inside. (See article) When I first learned this it made sense to me, and also added to the realization that our emotions may in fact be a natural part of our ability to process complex experience and information.
Regardless of the face of technology we are all faced with the fact that technology definitely needs it's limits, and cannot be relied upon as the highest and most valued forms of connection. Technology tells us we need to move faster, be more engaged, and hunt for the next big hit in the form of feedback. But it is not a substitute for real connection. It is however a very intriguing tool.
One of the most beneficial side effects for me to taking time away from the static of social media was that my ability to read books actually improved after I unplugged from the cognitive buzz of social media. At first it felt incredibly challenging and confronting, and I became much more aware of the impulse to check my phone. As I started to read more, and also get back into the physical reality through acts like cleaning, and organizing I noticed that this impulse began to dissipate. Coupling that with authentic compassion for the often overwhelmed soul a stillness begins to emerge.
As I picked up in my fervor to read I found it an incredible respite for my overly saturated brain. Books embodied a natural root, a physicality, and a reminder of the commitment it takes to develop an idea beyond a meme or a post flashing on my feed. With each turning of the page I felt more relaxed, and even more drawn to writing myself. Like a cerebral VR I started to feel my own perspective beginning to emerge more easily through the intimate act of reading. I attribute much of my newfound love for reading as a bi-product of my own internet addiction.
I still struggle with finding balance within the surge of technology. I often feel overwhelmed in needing to learn the language of tech which is constantly changing. This change is inevitable, and impossible to often gain traction with. I know I'm not alone in those feelings, which is also somehow comforting.
Now I simply keep coming back to the existential question of how technology might be applied through more and more empathic experience. How can we continue to evolve as empathic beings when challenged by our technology, and use the tool that is offered within this medium to cultivate a shift in consciousness?
It certainly amplifies the spaces we globally, and personally need to grow. We could perceive the internet as a kind of collaborative brain-like structure that is ever changing, ever-nuanced, and ultimately not to be controlled. But we can curate our experience like digital artists merging into a social context with greater awareness of the brain we are birthing collectively.
Possible suggestions for getting more balanced around internet experience:
(1) Get Your Screen Time Metrics- Download the Moment app as a way of seeing exactly how much screen time you are spending on your phone. They recommend that it is ideal to stay under 3 hours of screen time a day, which sounds like a lot but you'll be surprised at how quickly you go over this amount. The app focuses only on screen time and does not include the time you spend speaking on the phone.
(2) Send Voice Memos Instead of Texts- Leaving voice messages can feel stressful because of the impending beep ending you in mid-sentence. Voice memos allow you to send a message on your phone without the feeling of getting cut off. Using your voice instead of texting for messages that are more personal and intimate is a great way to help avoid misunderstanding and also feel more connected in the process.
(3) Assert your Boundaries in Blocking- Having boundaries in who you communicate and let into your content is an important way to hold psychic space, and also be less triggering to those that are not necessarily in your best interest. Yes, we're all one. But you can love people and accept differences from afar. The internet is a melting pot but your private space can be just that....private. As you get more comfortable blocking people you can also feel more comfortable sharing with those that you want to share with.
(4) Take Eye and Body Breaks- Similarly to shutting down your computer, and clearing the cache of information your body needs breaks to process the uptake of data it is receiving through the signals and signs of the internet. Taking a moment to just feel your breath while closing your eyes can be incredibly beneficial in easing anxiety and offering you a chance to integrate information.
(5) Print Your Favorite Articles and Practice Active Reading- Reading on a page has an incredible impact on the feeling body. You can experience the tangible power of the words without the projection of light onto your eyes. Seeing words on a page also has the added benefit of being able to highlight particular insights, and also to review it at a later time. Taking notes whether it's underlining key passages, or writing out key phrases that struck a chord that you want to remember helps to harness your capacity to learn in a more experiential and embodied way. Using your hands in writing notes, and highlighting your favorite parts engages your brain to harness it's own personal perception, anchor information more deeply into your higher brain (neo-cortex), and helps with retention of what you are actually reading.
(6) Use Facetime with Your Friends and Family- The ability to dialogue in a face to face manner through the vehicle of the internet is a powerful tool. Not only is it a more intimate way of connecting but it also allows us a way to experience other humans with the added benefits of reading the subtle cues of facial expression, and gesture. Our nervous system needs these more sentient forms of contact to also down-regulate stress. When utilized with intention and mindfulness it can be an incredible break in the day, a great way to laugh with a friend, maintain connections from afar, or bring business home.
(7) Get out into the Light of Nature- Staring at a screen for too long can not only strain your eyes, but it can also confuse your brains natural bio-rhythms. If you are on your screen late into the night the brain reads this as a signal that it is still light outside and cues your body to be more aroused, and may even cause head-aches. Getting out into the light of nature helps to naturally offset this dynamic and also helps you breathe the fresh oxygen of the outside world. Taking a break from screen time to take a walk can help your body take in healthy doses of Vitamin D while also engaging your body to process information through walking. Each time you take a step your body connects with the rhythm of your experience. Step by step you get to harness the power of your body to move forward beyond the stagnant and stilted cage of too much screen time.