What are digital devices doing to our posture?

Quick: What does your posture look like right now? There are literally three people in the coffee shop hunched over their assorted devices right now while I’m writing this.

I have somewhat of a bad neck from an accident awhile ago, so I am fairly mindful about my neck and pain and strain. It’s no surprise that our ubiquitous technology affects our relation to the world, but less clear perhaps is how we are unwittingly training our own bodies around the devices that we use.

I’m interested more broadly in our physical relationship to our devices, and posture is such a habitual behavior that is well worth thinking about from time to time. For me, words like “hunch” or “slouch” just seem like the most appropriate verbs to characterise our physical postures in relation to our devices.

Amy Cuddy wrote this helpful piece at the New York Times, which is well worth a read if you can manage to do so in as ergonomically proper a way as you can manage: “Your iPhone Is Ruining Your Posture — and Your Mood

Posture says something about our emotional states, but as Cuddy points out: “Posture doesn’t just reflect our emotional states; it can also cause them” and some research suggests that our posture affects our cognitive capacity and even our memory. Also check out Erik Peper’s post on this for a more in-depth examination (“Posture affects memory recall and mood“). Cuddy has done some studies of her own, with some interesting suggestions that intuitively seem to make sense: “there appears to be a linear relationship between the size of your device and the extent to which it affects you: the smaller the device, the more you must contract your body to use it, and the more shrunken and inward your posture, the more submissive you are likely to become.” The takeaway is basically that perhaps being mindful of the fact that our smartphone induces slouching and bad posture might be a step towards avoiding it. Maybe. Hopefully.

Here’s an article with a few more fixes on the posture maladies we might be suffering with everyday: “Tech neck, texting thumb: Our bad tech habits leave us in pain. Here’s how to feel better.” And I know what you are thinking — yes of course there is an app for that.

The NHS Live Well website has a number of helpful tips on this: “Common posture mistakes and fixes.” After reading all of these things, I’ve made a concerted effort to start doing some stretches that really do help.

don't slouch

And for those of us so inclined, there are handy little devices to help us with that very problem, too. From Engadget: “A posture trainer works, if you want it to.”