Gadget Sickness

Illustration by Mario Zucca

Last week, Apple released an iOS 7 fix, addressing user complaints that the mobile operating system was making them queasy. (“Note to self: get Dramamine,” Mia Farrow tweeted.) It’s not the only tech-induced ailment; office drones and teen phone addicts alike are coming down with illnesses as trendy as the devices that inflict them. According to recent research, that hunchback you’re developing might really be your cell phone’s fault.

Sleep deprivation
Doctors at the Mayo Clinic say smartphone and tablet use before bed messes with sleep cycles—bright lights too close to the face suppress melatonin release and keep the mind from entering the “default mode network,” the half-awake state that precedes sleep. One poll found three-quarters of 18-to-44-year-olds sleep within reach of their phones.

It’s a shortening of “no-mobile-phone phobia,” and according to one recent study, 66 percent of people suffer from it. The thought of even a prosaic bathroom trip sans smartphone can cause separation anxiety, with symptoms like trembling, sweating, and nausea.

Cybersickness (kinetosis)
To give iPhones and iPads the appearance of three dimensions, objects on the screen move more slowly the deeper they are in the field. The trick has the unfortunate side effect of triggering migraines, nausea, and vertigo in surprising numbers of people.

Laptop thigh (erythema ab igne)
Also called “toasted-skin syndrome,” it’s achieved when casings reach 110 degrees underneath (some can get as hot as 125), leaving legs pockmarked with discoloring burns—though only a handful of cases exist in medical literature.

iPosture (cervicalgia)
Eighty-four percent of 18-to-24-year-olds report neck and backaches in the past year. As it happens, more than8 trillion texts were sent during that time, giving the global condition its catchy if clichéd name, first introduced by a British health-care provider.

Texting thumb (tendinitis)
Tendinitis in overworked thumbs (other names: “BlackBerry thumb,” “Nintendoitis,” “injurwii”) is on the rise, orthopedists say. This summer, U.K. cell carrier O2 introduced 65-gram “Thumbells” to customers “to make suretheir thumbs are well looked after.”

Scrotal hyperthermia
As the testes get warmer, sperm production halts, with effects potentially lasting months. Research shows that if literally atop the lap, laptops can increase that region’s temperature—normally a balmy 93—by more than six degrees in one hour.

Phantom-vibration syndrome
Also jokingly called ring-xiety, the belief that your phone is vibrating or ringing when it’s not affects as many as seven in ten cell-phone users. Though its main effect is annoyance, research suggests stress can exacerbate incidence.

Have good intel? Send tips to

Gadget Sickness