“Wait but which food group do cookies go under?” My classmates and I were perplexed. Having just learned the various food “categories” and the suggested serving intake within each: grain 6-11 fruit 2-4, vegetables 3-5, etc. There were several key food items that seemed to be missing. Cookies for one. Candy for another. “Ahhh” my third grade health teacher said wisely tapping the a small triangle at the top of the pyramid. “Those go in the sweet section. You don’t need to have any of the items there. But if you do you’re supposed to have 1 a day.”
While this might seem funny as a young adult, at the time I recall being stunned by this discovery. It was suggested we have 5 servings of vegetables but we didn’t need any cookies/candy in our diet? How could the world be so cruel? Why did I need to eat something like broccoli but not need any lollipops, candy bars or cake?
As I grew older, I learned the answer to these questions. In middle school we started learning about the fat, calories and sugar content of food groups. In high school learning the science behind weight gain and healthy living. But while the density of the material has shifted over time the same core message has remained.
“There is no need for any added sugar items. But if you have some, limit yourself.”
Of course recently there has been a significant amount of hype around added sugar in processed food. In fact The Case Against Sugar outlines the evil behind added sugar as well as the systematic way in which it is added into our food in order to create addictive patterns of behavior.
With increasing research surfacing regarding the addictive aspects technology I often find myself seeing parallels between these two unlike topics: sugar and technology - brought together by the health issues they pose to our population.
While technology itself is not bad, the way it is created leaves users HOOKed and builds a cycle of dependency.
This is not supposed to be an argument about whether or not sugar or technology have addictive aspects but rather to address the differences in how we culturally approach these different yet similar topics.
The answer being that we systematically approach one -sugar/eating health- but neglect to give the same attention to technology.
In fact since 2nd third grade and continuing into high school; health class teaches us about healthy eating. We learn how many serving of each group to eat. We are instructed to cut down on sugar intake to protect our teeth, our waistline and our bodies. Yet there is no education revolving around technology habits.
Is it because the ill effects are less obvious? Or because school curricula have yet to catch up with the times?
Granted there are several reasons why this happens. First of all, technology is a newer issue. In my middle schools days (which weren’t that long ago) only the coolest kids had cell phones that they could use to SMS their parents when they were about to walk home from school.
There was nowhere near the proliferation of phones, tablets and technology that the younger generation is now exposed to on a daily basis. And because there was substantially less exposure to technology in the past...research concerning its addictive and negative health effects have only recently surfaced.
There is no need to freak out about technology, the key is in maintaining balance.
But before we can regain balance in our lives - we need to know that we need balance. We need to flag technology as a potential health concern in school. We need to realize that there are harmful effects of extended tech-time. This can be done by viewing technology through the same lens that we have been trained to evaluate sugar.
Dont start your day with technology.
Just as we are cautioned against eating high concentrations of sugar for breakfast, try to train yourself not to immediately grab your phone in the morning. This process takes your focus, breaks it into thousand pieces and sends it in every direction, desperately looking for exciting tidbits of information that may release dopamine in your brain.
Dont let technology interrupt your social interactions with others.
Think of technology as a means of enhancing rather than altering the human experience. Let it enhance your social life, keep your connected with friends around the world, allow you to build connections and stay on top of workload, but don’t let it fundamentally alter your interactions with other in real life. Don’t be the person hanging out with a group of pals glued to your phone.
Dont let technology affect your lifestyle.
Technology, like sugar, is not inherently bad. There is nothing wrong with adding some sugar to your coffee just as there is nothing wrong with using technology. However, both sugar and technology can pose health concerns when taken to the extreme. Be healthy about your technology use and don't let it affect your way of life.
If we think of it terms of agent based modeling, it only takes incremental individual changes to have a much larger societal impact.
If we look at technology addiction from a psychology standpoint, these addictions are a result of biology and situational factors. Small individual shifts result in larger societal shifts, addressing situational factors such that the threshold for addiction would be much higher.