Can Facebook, Text Messaging And Blogging Shorten Your Life?

 I have taken a semester off from my high school teaching job to promote my book, Millionaire Teacher.

But is the added isolation taking years off my life?

I do more blogging, Facebooking and basic online communicating than I ever did before.  I used to be surrounded by people most of the day.  Now I sit in front of a computer.

I’m not a total hermit, but I’ve found that my new, online, semi-secluded life has drawn me further from the ideals of the Blue Zone.

As someone who recently overcame cancer, I’m very interested to learn how to increase my longevity, and focussing on the characteristics of people who live in the world’s Blue Zones (where people live the longest) seems like a first step.

Pasted directly from Wiki, the Five Blue Zones that have been identified by Buettnerhere are:

  • Sardinia, Italy: One team of demographers found a hot spot of longevity in mountain villages where men [often] reach the age of 100 years.
  • Okinawa, Japan: Another team examined a group that is among the longest lived on Earth.
  • Loma Linda, California: Researchers studied a group of Seventh-day Adventists who rank among America’s longevity all-stars.
  • Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica: The Nicoya Peninsula was the subject of research on a Quest Network expedition which began on January 29, 2007.
  • Icaria, Greece: The April ’09 expedition to the island of Ikaria uncovered the location with the highest percentage of 90 year-olds on the planet – nearly 1 out of 3 people make it to their 90s. Furthermore, Ikarians “have about 20 percent lower rates of cancer, 50 percent lower rates of heart disease and almost no dementia”.

Residents of the first three places produce a high rate of centenarians, suffer a fraction of the diseases that commonly kill people in other parts of the developed world, and enjoy more healthy years of life.

The characteristics shared by Blue Zoners:

  1. Citizens are involved in their communities.  Human interaction is paramount.  One on one relationships are vital.
  2. Plant-based diets transcend a reliance on meat.
  3. Continual exercise
  4. Fewer people smoke
  5. Family is prioritized over work… and families often work together

Where Am I Slipping?

  1. I work in isolation, rather than with other students and teachers in a school setting
  2. I have become mildly addicted to blogging, Facebooking and online communicating.  With only so many hours in the day, one on one relationships become a casualty
  3. I’m exercising less as a result of the first two above.  At work, many teachers congregate at the school’s gym, and we work out together.  There’s even a daily organized “Boot Camp”.  I have isolated myself from that community.
  4. My daily schedule isn’t determined by a school timetable, so I’m less effective with my time.  Yoga and meditation are important life extenders for cancer survivors.  Now that I’m not working, I don’t seem to have the time for those things (can you spot the irony?)

What Am I Going To Do About This?

  1. After finishing this post, I’ll finish my breakfast (is it healthy to eat and blog simultaneously?)
  2. I’ll drink my organic green tea, read a paper, and when my food settles, I’ll do push-ups, chin-ups, dips and some core exercises at the playground beneath our condominium.  To fulfil the socialization gap, I’ll knock on my neighbour’s door to see if I can drag her into it.
  3. After lunch, I’ll head up to my school to watch some student sports competitions, before running the 11km home from school.

And I’ll make a daily schedule, ensuring that I fit the blue zone elements on a daily basis.  I’m not disciplined enough to be self-employed, it appears.

But I can creep back towards the Blue Zone.

How about you?  Like me, has technology taken you away from the Blue Zonisms?  Or have you exercised more balance than I have?


Andrew Hallam

I’m a financial columnist for Canada’s national paper, The Globe and Mail, as well as for AssetBuilder, a financial service firm based in Texas. I’m also the author of Millionaire Teacher: The Nine Rules of Wealth You Should Have Learned in School and Millionaire Expat: How To Build Wealth Living Overseas. My mission is to educate, motivate and inspire people on basic retirement planning and best practices for investing, using evidence-based strategies. I'm happy to comment on your questions.

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10 Responses

  1. Great reminders Andrew! I hadn't heard about a Blue Zone before. I wonder what researchers would find from studying Florida 🙂

  2. squasher55 says:

    Hey Andrew,

    An interesting post. Since I am retired….now for 16 yrs…I can relate to a lot of what you say. I spend a lot of my day on my own…not talking to many people, except on email. I do have a super relationship with my wife….but that happens before and after her work…so I have a lot of hours without that personal touch.

    I enjoy talking to people on Skype….and that does offer a personal touch to my day. Of course, the exercise takes discipline….and I am not always as disciplined as I should be. So it is very easy to get away from those many good habits that are needed to extend life. Thanks for the post…it is a good reminder of healthy habits.

    • Hey Squasher,

      In one hour, I'm going to get out and go for a run. I have been lazy lately.

      Why don't we both get outside and exercise? Then tell me what you did! I guess that's not the motivation we'd expect from a money blog, but some things are worth more than money, right?

  3. Chris the Truck Driv says:

    Howdy Andrew, I can't say enough about the value of this post! On Tuesday I was driving down to Kettleman City, California on the I-5…each company truck has an electronic Teletrac inside on the dash. It is a GPS that keeps track of our Hours of Service and more importantly …the trucks themselves. Seems well enough so far right? Well I had this big bright idea to hang my Iphone on the Teletrac and "ZING" it drains the battery in less than a minute! So much so that it wont even recharge for the next day and a half…I'm not a Tech guy but I guess it had to reset itself or something until I could attempt to charge it again because I have a DC charger with me in my Big Rig but it wouldn't work. I felt naked..I felt like I was thrown out in the woods with out any matches or a good Knife…I felt like my whole world was about to come crashing down on me! Technology has greatly improved our lives but it has also taken much of our Culture away from us….I could site one example after another of how rude people are these days as a result of the advent of the Cell Phone….tell me where I'm wrong here somebody. Anyways the lesson I learned here is: DISCONNECT from our Tech Toys once in a while! Moderation is the key! Just like Beer, or food, or whatever Moderation is the key…including our Tech Toys. Something to think about. Bye Andrew and blessings on everybody. Chris the Truck Driver

  4. Paula @ Afford Anyth says:

    I can relate to EXACTLY what you're saying. I work in isolation, so I lack socialization. Living with 3 people is the main social activity of my day. Since I set my own schedule, I lack the efficiency and discipline of having a rigorous, fixed workday, which means I often find myself lacking the time to exercise.

    My solution — in theory — is to build myself a 7 am to 7 pm workday with a 1 hour break for lunch/errands and a 2 hour break for the gym (including driving there and back, changing clothes, etc.) After 7 pm is unstructured "free" time.

    Of course, sometimes its tough to get up and start working at 7 am. And sometimes people in my household come home before at 5 or 6 pm, and we start chatting (since socialization is important!) and that pushes me off my schedule. But that's at least my solution "in theory." 🙂

  5. Bonnie says:

    Maybe just like Earth Hour we can have a similar hour where we all stop using our cell phones, blackberries, computers, etc. for one hour and spend that hour communicating person to person with our co-workers, friends, neighbours and families to raise awareness of our dependence on technogadgets and our need for human contact.

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