What Is Cyber Sickness? Here's Why You Get Dizzy Scrolling On Your Phone Sometimes
Have you ever scrolled through Twitter for a long time, or been in a really, really intense text conversation with your BFF about her terrible date, and then looked up from your phone and felt the world was spinning around you? And you legit felt sick to your stomach for a while after the fact? Same, girl — but did you know there's a technical name for that feeling? Cyber sickness is that nauseous, dizzy sensation you get when you've had your nose in your screen too long, and it's yet another reason why it's probably best to be mindful of the time you spend on your phone, your laptop, and even on video game consoles.
And yes, BTW, cyber sickness is an actual, scientifically recognized condition. It's quite similar to motion sickness, in fact — you know, that disoriented, tummy-aching awfulness you get sometimes when you're on a boat, or even inside a car for too long.
According to ScienceDaily, motion sickness is a result of something called "sensory mismatch." That means the things you see, feel, and sense aren't matching up in some way inside your body, so there's a "conflict" between those different sensory channels. As a result, it becomes hard for your body to define or position itself in relation to physical space — and yeah, it doesn't feel so hot.
Cyber sickness is a little different than motion sickness, in that it pretty much only involves the eyes and is triggered visually, according to ScienceDaily. In other words, your body doesn't have to be moving at all in order for you to experience cyber sickness, hence why you can start to feel a little woozy after simply lying on your couch and getting lost in an Instagram rabbit hole, much like you would on a small, unstable boat out at sea.
In fact, a recent study from the University of Newcastle in Australia explored the similar physiological responses between motion sickness and cyber sickness. The research, which has been published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, included 30 young adult volunteers who participated in two different trials. Admittedly, the trials kind of seemed like torture for the participants: In one trial, they were blindfolded while sitting in a motorized, rotating chair, and were asked to tilt their heads at regular intervals — which, to me, just sounds like a really easy way to get sick.
Anyway, for the second trial, which was done a week after the first one, the participants went on a virtual rollercoaster ride. During both the chair and virtual rollercoaster trials, the researchers aimed to have each experiment last for only about 15 minutes, though they told the participants they could bow out at any point if they felt especially sick or uncomfortable.
So here's what the researchers found after those two dizzying experiments: For one thing, according to ScienceDaily, "only one of the study participants was able to complete the full 15 minutes of either trial," which sort of speaks for itself, you know? More specifically, though, after recording both the participants' physical reactions (like sweat and heart rate) as well as their self-reported feelings about the experiments, the researchers found that the vast majority of the subjects experienced major motion and cyber sickness during both of the trials.
Bottom line: Cyber sickness is real, y'all. And as The New York Times explained in a 2015 article on the subject, the real concern here is that cyber sickness can potentially cause certain safety issues. For instance, the outlet said, "a teenager, after several hours of playing a virtual reality game, might get behind the wheel of a car and have balance and vision impairments similar to being drunk." Plus, according to the publication, the long-term effects of cyber sickness can be "strong and long lasting," as it can lead to trouble with "visual focusing, tracking images and hand-eye coordination."
So what are you supposed to do if you find that cyber sickness is legitimately affecting your life? Well, the solution is simple, really: limit your dang tech time, girl. After all, you probably already know that the blue light emitted from your phone and laptop isn't great for your health, so this is really just another reason why it's good to be mindful of how attached you are to the different devices in your life.