No one will be surprised to learn that texting is nearly universal among young adults with cell phones (so, um, all of them?). According to the data, 97 percent of cell phone users under 30 text every day. Oldsters are not far behind them: 92 percent of the 30 to 49 set text every day and 72 percent of the 50 to 64 age group do too.
And while texting can be a great way to stay in touch, to make seamless plans and to share the minor frustrations and comedies of daily life in almost real time, it sure has a downside. That's why we at HuffPost have launched several special initiatives to help explore what we lose when we settle for the plugged-in and tuned-out life. The science backs us up on this. Read on to learn why it really might be time to put the phone down -- even if it's just for an hour or an afternoon or a day.
It'll help you sleep better tonight
We all know that cell phone use during the wee hours can be disruptive to our sleep patterns, but it's also true that texting during the day could harm our ability to get a good night's sleep, according to a recent study in the journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture.
In the study, researchers followed the stress levels, texting habits and sleep of first year college students. They found that regardless of stress levels, the more people texted during the day the poorer their sleep was.
Your divided attention could keep you from what's truly important
We're not just talking about missing special moments -- although surely, texting during time spent with loved ones can prevent full engagement. We're talking about priorities. HuffPost Parents blogger Jennifer Meer described a scary recent moment, during which she was giving her sick 3-year-old daughter a bath:
I heard the ping of the iPad and saw an email from my friend. There was zero urgency about responding but inexplicably, I felt the need to, right then and there.
And in doing so, I left her alone in the tub for two minutes.
On any other night this would've been fine. But this night was different. She was really tired and the water was warm and she just fell asleep; completely and totally asleep. I've never seen anything like it before in my life. I went back in two minutes later and by the grace of God, she had managed to fall asleep sitting up, slumped against the side of the tub. But it wouldn't have been much longer (how much longer, seconds?) before she would've slipped under the water. She would've drowned. It would have been entirely my fault.
Yes, Meer was looking at email on her device -- but the same could be said for texting.
Your posture is suffering
Texting can actually harm your whole body.
“People get so focused on these devices that they end up holding their neck and upper back in abnormal positions for a long period of time; enough that other people coined the phrase ‘text neck,’ which is essentially referring to postural pain,” Chris Cornett, M.D., orthopaedic surgeon and spine specialist at the University of Nebraska Medical Center Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Rehabilitation, said in a statement.
Want to counteract the effect of all this stooping and texting? Cornett recommends trying to bring your phone to eye level while you use it or actually training for your endurance texting with back, neck and core strengthening exercises. Oh, and give your phone a rest!
We can't believe we still have to say this, but it disrupts your driving
Hopefully you know by now that you can't text and drive (since it's the law and all), but an astounding 80 percent of college-aged drivers admit to engaging in this behavior, despite knowing how dangerous it can be.
You are 23 times more likely to crash if you're texting behind the wheel, according to a federal report. And cell phone use was associated with 18 percent of "distraction"-related deaths.
It makes you a less responsible pedestrian
Even if you aren't driving, your texting could be a liability to the people around you. A study in the British Medical Journal found that one in three people are distracted by mobile devices while walking and that texting was the most distracting of all the mobile activities -- including listening to music and talking on the phone.
The researchers observed more than 1,000 pedestrians during rush hour in Seattle and recorded their phone habits and safety precautions as they crossed traffic junctions. They reported that texting pedestrians were almost four times more likely to ignore traffic lights, fail to look both ways at a cross and to cross outside of the demarcated crosswalk.
Your school or work performance will suffer
Your texting could be holding back your productivity at work or school. According to one study of college students, female first year students spend an average 12 hours texting and engaging in social media -- and extensive media use is associated with lower academic performance.
"We found women who spend more time using some forms of media report fewer academic behaviors, such as completing homework and attending class, lower academic confidence and more problems affecting their school work, like lack of sleep and substance use," study researcher Jennifer L. Walsh, Ph.D., of The Miriam Hospital's Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine, told ScienceDaily.
But it isn't just college students who face texting distractions. A study conducted at the University of Michigan found that short interruptions at work -- even just the duration of reading or sending a text -- can increase the number of errors a worker makes during a single task, reported HealthDay.
It can prevent you from really enjoying the activities you cherish
Google executive Bonita Stewart banishes her cell phone from her ballet class so that she can enjoy her dance practice unfettered by her to-do list. As she told HuffPost Healthy Living:
During class, I never looked at my phone. But one time I did and it became a reminder for how sacred the space should really be. My boss emailed me, during the break, between the barre and the floor exercise and I had just decided to check my email. Email draws you in and there’s always some action item -- something that triggers a response.
For the rest of the class, it made it much more difficult to concentrate. Remembering the exercise, going across the floor. That one email check pulled into class what I should be doing after class. I lost being in the moment, being present and the joy faded. I realized that I had invaded my sacred space with technology.