Texting your way to TMI
Another scare to get teenagers off those cursed mobiles.
It’s not only safe sex teenagers have to think about these days (just when you thought it was safe to have a relationship so long as it didn’t involve physical contact). I had to check the date of The Times yesterday to make sure it wasn’t April Fool’s Day, when I read the headline ‘Mobile users must practise safe text’.
Apparently, ‘Chiropractors recognise that text messaging regularly, over a long period, could cause repetitive strain and lead to injuries later in life’ (1). Et voilà, TMI – text message injury – was born.
I knew obsessive text messaging could make you look a bit socially inadequate, but who’d have guessed it was a serious health risk? To end up at age 80 with a sore thumb, sorry TMI, you would have to have been very committed to texting friends in your youth – and carried on even after what is commonly looked upon as a teenage fad had gone out of fashion. Ah well, anything to get the kids off the damn things.
It is similar to the outbreak of ‘Nintendo thumb’ or ‘nintenditis’, which threatened to leave millions of children crippled in the early 1990s. Only two years ago, BBC News was still warning that ‘Too much game-playing could be bad for your health…. Children who spend too long playing with Christmas computer game presents this year could end up with “Nintendo thumb”‘ (2).
People seem to have forgotten about nintenditis – perhaps because the PlayStation is much more popular now. And why is it that only the fun stuff causes these problems? What about warning overzealous young mathematicians about the dangers of overusing their scientific calculators?
Luckily, there are measures you can take to prevent TMI. The Kinlochbervie Hotel in Scotland has recently opened a mobile phone crèche, where you can book your mobile into a special little phone deckchair. Staff are on hand to answer your calls and take messages around the clock. The crèche was originally devised to give ‘archetypal stressed-out executives’ a ‘chance to ditch the constant interruptions of their phones and really immerse themselves in [the Hotel’s] peaceful surroundings’ (3). But I think it sounds like the ideal rehab environment for anybody who needs to save their thumbs but can’t quite bear to turn their phone off.
Alternatively, you could take up Virgin Mobile’s recommended exercises, developed with experts from the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) and Repetitive Strain Injury Association. Tips include ‘doing regular “textercises”, such as shoulder shrugs, finger spreads and neck muscle stretches. Users are advised to do their textercises before and after texting to help avoid aches and muscle cramps’ (4). Unfortunately I can’t give a more detailed description of these exercises, because the UK Repetitive Strain Injury website (5) was being redesigned when I tried to look at it. This could take a while to complete, due to staff typing very slowly and taking regular breaks to do their keyboard stretches and finger flexes.
It’s a shame that these useful gadgets only get talked about as things that fry your brain and get you mugged, and also inflict lasting damage upon your thumbs. Luckily it’s not all bad news for mobile phone users. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has developed a range of 38 ringtones for Nokia Phones, replicating the calls of different birds. These range from ‘the familiar blackbird and song thrush to the more raucous Arctic tern and rough-legged buzzard’.
No doubt the cry of the rough-legged buzzard will soon overtake 1980s TV theme-tunes as mobile phone users’ favourite ring.
Mobile moans, by Joe Kaplinsky
(1) Comment made by Chiropractor Association spokesman Matthew Bennett in The Times (London), 26 February 2002
(2) Computer games pose injury risk, BBC News, 20 December 2000
(3) Hotel opens 24-hour mobile phone creche, Ananova, 20 February 2002
(4) Virgin Mobile launches ‘safe text guide’, Ananova, 25 February 2002
(5) UK Repetitive Strain Injury website
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