From the origin of homo sapiens so far, physical changes in the species have manifested slowly. Faced with this reality, taking into account the theory of evolution proposed by Charles Darwin and the intense use we make of the smartphone, media from around the world revealed studies of doubtful origin that have left more than one speechless.
One talks about the existence of the so-called “external occipital protuberance”: a kind of horn, which sits above the neck, just at the base of the skull. That bone would be generated to support the weight of the skull by looking down at the cell phone screen and, for the most part, it would affect today’s youth.
Almost simultaneously, a series of images were released that represents how a person’s appearance could become in 3000 by the use of technology. After intensive use of the phone or tablet, the human body of the future – created in 3D and baptized “Mindy” – is hunched over for so many minutes looking down, has double eyelids to be able to look at the screens for a longer time, and hands shaped like a claw or hook due to the constant use of mobile devices.
Both “revelations” are false news. Therefore, scientists and anthropologists came out to warn about the implausibility of these stories. Archaeologist Kristina Killgrove did it in Forbes magazine. This scientist points out that external occipital protuberance is a feature studied in anthropology, and its frequency in different populations has been proven several decades ago.
Changes in the individual, not in the generations
Verónica Báez, biochemist and doctor in Biology and researcher at the National Council of Scientific and Technical Research in Argentina, explained to Cromo that no major changes in the human body are perceived due to the use of technology from one generation to another in recent decades.
“Beyond the physical consequences that may cause prolonged use of screens, such as rectification of the spine, poor position of the head or neck or tendinitis associated with the incorrect use of the thumbs, we do not find concrete data on inheritable or transmissible modifications to other generations for this cause, ”he said.
Anyway, the expert clarifies that there are more than 1,000 works on the subject in which it is assured that there is an increase in sedentary lifestyle due to the use of technology. And, added to the unbalanced diets, rich in carbohydrates, fructose and saturated fats, leads to a significant increase in cases of obesity, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
Federico Prada, director of Biotechnology and Bioinformatics at the Universidad Argentina de la Empresa, repeats the same idea: “Definitely, the technology that surrounds us generates changes in people, but they do so at the level of the individual, not through the following generations ”, He says. As proof of this, it is easy to realize that many users suffer some bone pain as in the past suffered those who worked in the field at the beginning of agriculture, to mention just one example.
On the other hand, Prada explains that for the evolution of a species, a millennium is too little to generate considerable changes in appearance.
“The most important thing is that the changes that happen in homo sapiens do not go in the direction of solving an existing problem,” he said. What is the reason? “Because evolution does not occur in a directed way, but at random; that is why nobody knows how evolution will surprise us because nobody knows what the fate of each of the species is, ”he rounds.
Our body today, given the excessive use of the devices
While it is not true that today’s children have horns on their skulls for being so long with their heads down looking at the phone, or that in the future humans will be born with hooked hands to hold a device, there is an undeniable reality: the excessive use of certain electronic devices are producing an increase in the number of people who manifest neck pain, contractures and visual problems, to name just a few ailments.
For example, neck contracture syndrome, also known as text neck, that arises from tilting the neck forward to observe, for example, the cell phone screen. Maintaining this position causes the spine to be overloaded, the one that usually carries about five kilos, which is the average head weight in a normal position. However, when the skull is at 60 degrees of inclination, it is equivalent to the column supporting 27 kilos. At the moment when this occurs, people may experience headaches, discomfort behind the eyes, contractures and even dizziness. To avoid this situation it is recommended to have the screen at eye level.
According to a study by King Saud University in Britain, there is a direct association between the time of smartphone use and neck problems. He reached this conclusion after analyzing the number of patients treated for this condition in the 1990s compared to those seeking treatment in 2017. Meanwhile, an investigation conducted last year by the Indian Orthopedic Research Group, revealed that only the 35% of the population has heard of the text neck, and of that total, only 21% have knowledge about the preventive measures of this syndrome.
Eye conditions is another of the most common phenomena since the overexposure to the screens and the effort we have to make when looking at the results in a smaller amount of flickering, which are essential to keep the eye moist. As a consequence, fatigue and visual stress can occur. In this regard, the World Health Organization states that the most common visual disabilities are due to the constant contact of people with multiple screens. To those mentioned are added others such as blurred vision and headaches.
The fact of manipulating the mouse for long hours and using the smartphone’s keyboard can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. Basically, the sufferer feels weakness in the wrist and a tingling sensation. While it is commonly known as “Whatsappitis” to pain in the thumbs after spending long periods typing on the cell phone with them.
What happened and happens in Uruguay with the Ceibal Plan
Carlos Planel, director of the Degree in Physiotherapy of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of the Republic, comments that although the number of people who have these ailments in Uruguay is increasing, it cannot be said that the cause is due solely to the use of devices. “These are multifactorial issues. Because, for example, there are those who have a greater predisposition than others to suffer from osteoarticular problems, ”he says.
The professional detects that users can begin to suffer pain from repetitive movements of the fingers. “As cell phones do not follow ergonomic lines. In fact, we have wide and large models for small hands, that makes the muscles have to make more strength and a greater number of repetitive movements, which give rise to tendinitis ”, details the professional. The panel said that “it is likely” that in the future we will observe cases of osteoarthritis of the metacarpophalangeal joint of the thumb, “which is the one that is most subject to different movements.
” The expert recalls that in the past the use of technological equipment has already generated large-scale impacts on the human body in Uruguay. “When computers for children were launched under the Ceibal Plan, the device was thought of but not the environment. Because the teams relied on the students’ desks, within a few minutes the boys began to say that their neck ached. This is because the furniture was not ready for work on the computer. The response capacity of the body to adopt this new instrument in class was not considered, ”he explains.
The measure taken to alleviate this situation was for the children to sit on the floor, with their legs crossed and the computer resting on their knees until the classrooms had adequate furniture to work with the device, Planel recalls.
The expert and his colleagues are noticing an increase in postural alterations, although he clarified that there are no quantitative data from the past to make comparisons.
To have more information, together with a group of doctors, they are conducting research with 15-year-olds on this subject, which is increasingly consulting with local physiotherapists.