10 New Tech Ailments
Anthropologists have observed that one clear sign of a modern culture is the advanced array of exotic maladies that its members are subject to. Vikings, for example, appear not to have suffered from high rates of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome on the physical side of the ledger or (despite their geographical proximity) Stockholm Syndrome on the mental side. In contrast, modern life is chockablock with highly evolved afflictions of the body and mind.
Since tech innovation and adoption have continued to advance at breakneck speed in recent years, it stands to reason that new physical and mental ailments must be emerging at a rapid clip, too. And so they are. Here's a look at ten cutting-edge conditions--five physical and five mental--that are so new that the AMA hasn't worked out a recommended price schedule for treating them yet. If you're an early adopter, you'll want to be the first on your block to collect all ten!
Netflix Wandering Eye
No, this isn't the common mental condition where you and your significant other find yourselves downloading any movie that appears to have attractive stars in it, despite the film's possibly wretched reviews. Instead it's a physiological reaction to extended exposure to video images that are moving across the screen from right to left. Eventually your eyes get used to the motion; so when the scrolling stops, your eyes continue to move to the right as if the video were still scrolling by. It's a mildly uncomfortable feeling--like standing on solid ground after a sea voyage--as you retrain yourself to keep your eyes fixed on stationary content.
This is an irritation of the side of your index finger caused by swiping the finger crossways across the touchscreen of a smartphone, tablet PC, or touchscreen PC to move one image off the screen and call another to the center. Symptoms: redness, soreness, and in extreme cases blistering. Most often the condition arises during the first giddy days of device ownership and overuse; once you start exercising a little restraint, nature will come to your aid--with calluses.
Game Controller Claw
This painful cramping of the hand and fingers is caused by prolonged gripping and manipulation of a game controller, such that the palm and digits begin to conform to the controller's not-very-ergonomic design. There is no sure cure but abstinence, which for most sufferers is out of the question. On the other hand, when you walk around your neighborhood, people may mistake you for a brilliant but slightly mad concert pianist.
Since tablet screens are situated far below natural eye-level, users must curve their back, neck, and head into a semi-fetal curl to focus on it. Holding this position for long periods of time can result in serious back and neck pain, and even migraine headaches. Some physical therapists suggest standing flat against a wall and then pulling in your chin as far as you can to straighten out the muscles affected by the slouch. Or you could arrange for your mom to call you every hour or so to remind you to do something about your bad posture.
Similar to tennis elbow, Wii elbow manifests as tendinitis-like pain in your arm (particularly around the elbow). As you'd expect, it's caused by too much playing of Wii tennis or other Wii games that require lots of arm movement. Unfortunately, Nintendo hasn't yet released a Wii Health Clinic app that you can visit virtually to erase your real-world discomfort digitally.
Navigation System Anthropomorphizing
The woman in your phone or GPS box who gives you the direction to turn left off a busy street just 10 feet before you need to execute the maneuver is not a live human being with real feelings and emotions. When you yell at her, she does not hear and understand your displeasure. She has no capacity for empathy, and will not change her behavior. In your frustration, you may think that you detect a faint note of condescension in her voice commands, but it isn't real: It's just a set of recorded instructions. Oh, and she doesn't want to date you, so don't get any ideas.
The 'Undo' Reflex
Almost all contemporary software programs keep track of every change you make to a document or project, and this recordkeeping/version control enables you to turn back the hands of time to the precious moment just before you started making boneheaded errors and ruining everything you'd spent hours or days working on. Unfortunately, no analog version of this feature exists for dealing with nondigital bungling. When we royally screw something up in real life (a wrong turn, a bad investment, a word said in anger), our minds sometimes leap reflexively to press some cosmic Undo button, some magic stroke that restores us to our former state of grace. But, alas, the real world comes without a user manual, get-out-of-jail-free cards, and a do-over option.
Generalized Swiping Disorder
This syndrome refers not to kleptomania but to the behavior of certain people who have become so used to pushing, pulling, pinching, and swiping content around on a touchscreen that they begin to believe subconsciously that all screens come with a touch-based interface. Persons suffering from moderate cases of this disorder can be seen swiping with their fingers at laptop screens, bus stop signs, and old-black-and-white TVs. In the advanced phase, individuals have been observed trying to pinch-and-grab their reflections in mirrors to lose weight.
This temporary illness has been clinically proven to result from overexposure to Apple marketing messages around the release of new Apple products. Such messages, broadcast by fanboys and media at progressively higher levels of intensity, produce an echo-chamber effect that confuses and bedazzles the victim, culminating in an Apple event at which company executives announce the new product and call it "magical." By this point the sufferer has become so disoriented and sensitized to Apple's marketing campaign that critical thought ceases and does not return to natural levels until several days after the individual has been separated from a large chunk of his or her income at the Apple Store or website. Purchasing the product, however, marks the climactic crisis of the affliction, which begins to recede in the ensuing hours. As the endorphin-triggering thrill of the purchase wears off, the earlier symptoms of ecstatic befuddlement often give way to feelings of regret.
Ambulatory Gadget Fixation Syndrome (AGFS)
AGFS describes a condition in which the users of a mobile technology device become so preoccupied with the activity that they are engaged in on its little screen that they are powerless to desist from the activity while walking. These gadget-entranced zombies routinely rendezvous with telephone poles, parked cars, open manholes, and other stationary objects; but even more frequently they collide with other moving objects such as people (especially other AGFS sufferers), bikes, subway trains, and automobiles. Bad as this condition is, it pales in comparison to Advanced Mechanized Ambulatory Gadget Fixation Syndrome (AMAGFS), in which operators of powered vehicles focus on their devices while driving off cliffs, crashing into buildings, or mowing down pedestrians.