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The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
  • Dr. Murray Feingold: Smartphones can be hazardous to your mental health

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  • The first phone was patented in 1876 by Alexander Graham Bell. I am old enough to remember when picking up the phone to make a call, you would hear the pleasant voice of the operator asking, “Number, please?” How easy was that? No stress on your mental health.
    As the telephone operator made her exit, a phone with a rotary dial made its entrance. The caller dialed the phone number, and since the phone was quite large, it was easy to dial. Again, not much stress.
    The rotary dial phone was then replaced with the push button phone, and phone sizes became smaller.
    And then before we knew it, there were wireless phones enabling people to take their phones with them and make calls at almost any location.
    Now, smartphones are the latest innovation, and they can do almost everything and anything but clean windows.
    Sometimes smartphones are smarter than the person using them, and that may be part of the problem. Although very useful, they also are responsible for producing a lot of stress and anxiety in our already overly stressed lives.
    Let me cite a few examples.
    Some people, for myriad reasons, including tapping in the wrong number, have difficulty contacting the person they are calling on the first or even second or third attempts. This can be very bothersome.
    Because of smartphones, we have coined a new term, “butt dialing” — numbers that are mistakenly dialed when your phone is in your pocket or purse. They are particularly annoying to the person receiving them who continually shouts, “Hello, hello,” with no response.
    Speaking of annoying, how about those obnoxious individuals who shout into their phones while others are trying to enjoy their meal in a restaurant? This can cause your blood pressure to rise somewhat.
    Because people rely so much on their smartphones, they can have a “meltdown” or acute anxiety attack if they lose or think they lost their phone. It’s as if they lost part of themselves.
    I think you get the picture and probably have many more personal examples of how smartphones emotionally disrupt your day.
    It certainly makes some of us yearn for the good old days when making a call, all you heard was the melodious voice of the telephone operator asking, “Number, please?”
    Dr. Murray Feingold is the physician in chief of The Feingold Center for Children, medical editor of WBZ-TV and WBZ radio, and president of the Genesis Fund. The Genesis Fund is a nonprofit organization that funds the care of children born with birth defects, mental retardation and genetic diseases.

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