It’s not very often through the course of human evolution that man goes through a posture change. Millions of years ago we transitioned from a curved spine to almost straight. We walked tall with our heads up for many a millennia since. It appears now that we are in another transition. This time, our heads are starting to tilt down.
Almost everyone uses handheld devices. Phones are replacing computers, tv’s, books, cameras, the list goes on. They are capable of storing loads of new interactive media. The functionality of mobile handheld devices has evolved at warp speed. If you don’t own a smart phone, you might as well be living in the dinosaur age. Or maybe you’ve capped your technological limit, like the Amish (although many of them are up-to-speed).
With the rapid proliferation of these devices, more and more people carry their handheld devices, where else, but the hand. Most of us wouldn’t leave home without them. You might think some worship the little devices at the way we respond to their every quirky sound. We pay more attention to them then our newborns.
The most telling trait of device is that it pulls our head down, causing the head tilt. Physical therapist tell us to hold the device up to eye-level to interact with them. But the devices don’t like being held that high. Our arms don’t like it either. Fact is, it’s getting comfortable tilting the head down.
Working in New York, elevators are a fact of life. Most people, if their heads are not already tilted down, immediately whip out their devices when the elevator doors close. Heads tilt down. They scroll, look at contact lists, Instagram feeds, Facebook updates, anything, rather than standing head straight up.
More and more people walk with heads tilting down. Many have learned to drive a car with head tilted. We see the tilt all the time. It’s happening more and more, at an evolutionary rate.
I was in a department store the other day doing research. On an upper floor, I pressed the down elevator button to leave when I looked up an noticed a bicycle hanging upside-down from the ceiling. It was a handsome bike. How odd, I thought, that I hadn’t noticed it earlier. “Was the head-tilt affecting me?” I thought. One of the elevators opened as I was staring up at the bike. I stuck my hand into the door so it wouldn’t close while still mesmerized by the bike. It was a few seconds and I hadn’t realized I was holding up the elevator.
When I pulled my attention away from the ceiling and into the elevator, there were six other people waiting. It was so quite I wasn’t aware there were people there. I apologized and stepped in. The interesting thing was, none of them seemed to care. They were each in the head-tile position, engrossed in their own device. One even mumbled “no problem” as if I could have kept the doors open longer.
Maybe that’s what the devices are, comfort. They are our grown-up comfort blankets. As long as we have them, not much else matters. They are a time occupier. We are in constant need to give away our attention and the new handled device is the ideal recipient. Those reading this may have started head tilting several years ago. But our children and their children will head tilt shortly after birth. The handheld will be their new pacifier.
We may not see it in our lifetime but we are developing a new head-tilt posture. And it’s happening fast.