My back’s been hurting lately, and my posture is atrocious. I’m blaming it on the fact that I am ever-bent-over my smartphone. One of the ways I am trying to alter my addiction is by giving up eBooks on my Kindle app in favor of hard copies. As I do this, I notice a lot of articles praising the choice. If you are interested in your ability to sleep, to focus, and/or to keep your memory sharp, you may want to consider ditching eBooks too.
You’ve heard this a hundred times, but I tested it. The blue light emitted from our devices interferes with our body’s circadian rhythm making it hard to sleep. Being able to fall asleep has always been one of my talents. Sleeping soundly was also in my skill set. Imagine my worry when I started to have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. At age 67, I wondered if it was some weird change due to aging, or if it had something to do with my tendency to play with my phone until lights-out instead. As much as I wanted to believe that scrolling through apps or reading digitally was relaxing, many articles disagreed, including one from the National Sleep Foundation. It tells us the phone’s blue light suppresses the release of sleep-inducing melatonin, which therefore keeps us alert.
It was easy enough to test their findings. I just turned off my devices two hours before bedtime for a couple of weeks as they recommended. The result? I became a super sleeper once again. Suffice it to say that when I indulge my habit of nighttime reading, it is a physical book I will pick up. The ability to sleep is too important a capability to mess with!
Digital reading decreases your attention span because it teaches your brain non-linear reading. When I read an article online, I often find other links to click that amplify the point being made. When I click into that new article – and the next one – I am practicing non-linear reading. As I bounce around from section to section, without necessarily ever finishing any of them, I am teaching myself to be a distracted reader. It’s like giving myself a case of ADD. Indeed, I find that lately I have difficulty reading the morning paper. It is hard for me to stick with an article from start to finish especially if it is long. Instead, my eyes want to dart around like they do online impatiently skimming the content, looking for the punchline.
With the Kindle app on my phone, my newly acquired case of ADD tempts me to click into my email, or to see how my latest Facebook post is performing, or to respond to whatever notification just popped up on the screen. Additionally, if I don’t know a term within my book, I can google it right on the spot. If my book’s character is eating a Cobb Salad, for instance, and I don’t know what that is, I can highlight it, and up pops a definition – and recipes! It’s all very interesting and all very distracting. None of this bodes well for those times in life when I must do linear reading, when my eyes must travel from left to right and from top to bottom covering every word, like when I am reading a contract or even the morning newspaper. Getting back to real books helps me keep this skill intact.
Because eBooks are easily searchable, they don’t exercise my memory skills like a print book does. When I read an eBook, I don’t have to read it closely. All those many characters? No need to stretch my memory to keep them straight. Instead, I can use the search feature built into the eBook to search for the character’s name. A list will quickly pop up showing every paragraph containing him/her.
There is a scholarly paper available from Scholar.Harvard.edu called, “Google Effects on Memory.” It discusses the “cognitive consequence of having information at our fingertips.” The researchers found that when people are asked a difficult question, they think about how to look up the information as opposed to trying to remember it. As we age, we are supposed to exercise our cognitive skills to boost our memory. I’m thinking this aspect of eBooks could bring the opposite result.
At the ripe old age of 67, it is easy for me to think that an aching back, stooped posture, insomnia, distractibility, and memory problems are age related. But what if they’re not? What if they are technology induced instead? What if giving up eBooks can cure – or ameliorate – all that ails me? And for anyone who is phone addicted like me, won’t it be great to have fewer hours per week with that darn device in hand? It all seems logical and worth a try. Instead of visiting Amazon for a one-click purchase of my next book, I’m heading to the library instead. Join me?
If you love my blog, you’ll love my latest book. Love, Loss, and Moving On is available in paperback and in eBook (gasp!) formats on Amazon.