Image via HBO
We can all agree that the smartphone is a brilliant invention that makes life easier, more efficient, and more photogenic (thanks, Instagram!).
Most of us spend a lot of time with our phones. We take them absolutely everywhere and fiddle with them constantly. Need an easy last minute dinner recipe? You’ll consult a cooking app. Desperate to settle a pub argument over whether or not dolphins have hair? Your hand will involuntarily reach for the nearest wifi-connected phone.
All that typing and swiping seems relatively harmless, and most of the time it probably is. However, there’s a good chance your phone is having some really creepy affects on your health, wellbeing and appearance without you even realising.
Here are six parts of your body that your beloved device might be messing with:
1. Your face
We spend a lot of time looking down at our phones, and that’s not necessarily good news for our faces.
Cosmetic surgeons and other aesthetics experts have previously speculated that sitting with the head bent slightly forward for long periods of time could contribute to drooping jawlines, lines around the mouth and double chins, by shortening the neck muscles and pulling down on the jowl area. It’s even got a name: Smartphone Face.
Furthermore, in 2012 US cosmetic surgeons observed a boom in ‘chinplants’. According to reports, many people were opting for this procedure after noticing sagging around the lower half of their face while using video apps on their handheld devices. If you’ve ever accidentally switched on your camera while looking down at your iPhone, you’ll probably understand their horror – no human face looks taut from that angle.
2. Your neck
Constant screen-gazing isn’t so great for your neck, either. A dashing accompaniment to ‘Smartphone Face’, ‘Techneck’ is a term used to describe a wrinkle along the neck that’s possibly caused by regularly looking down. Plastic surgeons have reportedly observed a rise in people wanting to iron out this specific crease.
Aesthetics aside, your neck’s muscles might also be suffering. Experts caution that constantly flexing the neck forward can cause muscle stiffness, headaches and shoulder, arm and wrist pains in the short term. In the long term it could even change the neck’s natural curvature. Surprise, surprise, this phenomenon has also been given a catchy nickname: ‘text neck’.
3. Your skin
Phone screens are Mecca for bacteria - anything that lives in your handbag and is being constantly poked by your fingers is destined to be. So when you hold this germy surface against your skin for periods of time - like a phone call - things can get little nasty.
Resting your phone on your cheek puts pressure on your skin's oil glands, causing them to produce more oil. This becomes trapped in the pores thanks to the barrier created by the phone, and to make matters even worse, the heat generated by your device can cause the bacteria living on its screen to multiply. Basically, it's a massive party in your pores that can result in pimples and acne cysts.
Perhaps it's time to start cleaning that screen, huh? Investing in a headset or attachable hand piece is also wise.
4. Your general health
Speaking of germ-laden screens, here's another piece of information that will make you shudder: your phone is likely teeming with coliforms, a type of bacteria that indicates fecal contamination. That probably comes as a surprise, but it really shouldn't. Have you ever texted on the toilet? Yeah, there you go.
For a Wall Street Journal report in 2012, eight randomly selected phones were tested in a lab. All were found to have abnormally high numbers of coliforms - between 2700 and 4200 units. For comparison's sake, 100ml of drinking water has less than 1 unit of coliforms. The potential impact of this bacteria is exactly as unpleasant as you imagine - it can lead to pinkeye or diarrhoea.
5. Your appetite
Sure, scrolling through your friends' cafe brunches on Instagram can make you think about food - but evidence suggests your phone itself might actually give you the munchies.
Earlier this year, a small study in the US found exposure to the blue light emitted by electronic devices may increase appetite. The ten adults who participated in the study reported stronger levels of hunger after being exposed to blue light before and during an evening meal, as compared to dim light exposure. "It was very interesting to observe that a single three-hour exposure to blue-enriched light in the evening acutely impacted hunger and glucose metabolism," study co-author Ivy Cheung said in a statement.
6. Your body clock
The final-fleeting-glance-at-Facebook-after-lights-out has almost become a modern sleeping ritual. Yet texting in the dark could actually prevent you from getting a good night's rest. That's because the short wavelength blue light from your phone, laptop or tablet has been shown to be more disruptive to your circadian rhythm than other light wavelengths. It has the effect of suppressing melatonin, a hormone your body produces in the dark to regulate your sleep.
The obvious side effect of disrupted sleep is feeling tired and grumpy, but it's also been linked to serious diseases like diabetes, heart disease and depression. If you simply can't bear the thought of swapping your phone for a book when you hit the pillow, experts suggest reducing the brightness of your screen and holding it at least 12 inches from your eyes.