Monday, March 31, 2014

Textual Despondency

"Text neck."

This condition reportedly has been a "world wide health concern" since around 2011 when conditions associated with excessive cell phone usage for texting and other mobile communications activities other than a phone call were starting to be identified.

A couple of weeks ago I was in San Francisco for the California Workers' Compensation Institute's annual meeting.

San Francisco must be the leading city where this "condition" could be studied. I was astounded at how many people walk around that town with their necks bent towards the ground, small devices in hand, paying zero attention to where they are, where they're going, or anyone or anything around them.

The number of people with zero spatial orientation or situational awareness as a result of profound hand-held device distraction was amazing to me.

Even in the elevator of the hotel where normally cellular signals aren't strong, if existent at all, a couple of gentlemen occupied the car as I got on heading to upper floors; they both were completely immersed in their devices. They did not look up, acknowledge my presence in any way or even acknowledge each other.

We got to the seventh floor and, without even a short little glance above the screen in his hand held one fellow starts toward the open doors and says, I presume to the other guy in the elevator, "see you at dinner."

The other guy, likewise, did not take his stare off the screen of his hand held device, thumb busy scrambling about presumably entering text, and just grunted, "yep."

That scene was basically played out my entire stay in San Francisco on numerous occasions in elevators, standing in lines, walking the streets.

I experimented a bit by attempting to interrupt the myopically text bound with interjections of conversation such as "have a nice day," "what floor," or a short joke or two about whatever happened to be on my mind at the time.

Zero response. If someone was engaged in their hand held device they were not going to alter that interaction with some actual, live, human conversation - won't happen, no how, no way, at least not in San Francisco.

There are the obvious dangers of using a hand held device while operating machinery, automobiles ... trains ....

I figure that it won't be long, however, until this is condition becomes an "injury" within the meaning of workers' compensation. Certainly in states like California that recognize the continuous trauma theory of causation text neck will be a new injury trend.

There are some medical professionals already recognizing text neck and seeking to cure those afflicted with the condition, warning of dire physical consequences if left untreated: Flattening of the Spinal, Curve Onset of Early Arthritis, Spinal Degeneration Spinal Misalignment, Disc Herniation Disc Compression, Muscle Damage Nerve Damage, Loss of Lung Volume Capacity and Gastrointestinal Problems.


I'm being facetious about this, of course, because all of this just seems rather silly.

Certainly the "cure" to this "disease" is to stop texting or using a hand held device excessively.

But in the context of workers' compensation claims, nothing is silly.

In a Forbes article it was noted that some are using knowledge of the condition to get cases of neck injury claims dismissed.

Obviously though if the conditions of compensation exists - you do text your employee once in a while to check on their status or have your assistant get you something for lunch, don't you? - that strategy will back fire.

POSTSCRIPT: Oprah on texting out of social context:

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