Right now, we are living in a world that, just a few short generations ago, would've looked like an episode of the damned Jetsons. Cellphones, the Internet, and touchless hand dryers with motion sensors are all things that would've made our early ancestors green with wondrous jealousy. Our world begins to look a bit less rosy, however, when you realize that many of our modern conveniences are actively making our lives worse, to various degrees. For example ...
#5. The Snooze Button Ruins Your Sleep Cycle
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Much like a four-course meal for a death row inmate, the snooze button teaches us how precious a few extra minutes can be when you're about to do something you really don't want to do. Unfortunately, if you're a habitual user of your alarm's snooze feature, it can start to seriously interfere with your sleep cycle worse than Freddy Krueger juggling a bunch of outboard motors.
The problem is that the process of waking a human body is more complex than you might think. Each cell in your body contains a protein called PERIOD (or PER), which builds up and subsides once in every 24-hour cycle. PER is a central component of your circadian rhythm, and if you go to sleep at roughly the same time each day, your body learns when to max out this protein and activate your internal alarm. Those of you who regularly wake up a few seconds before your alarm clock goes off, congratulations! Your body is in perfect synchronization with your desired wake-up time.
Now why don't you go do yoga and watch the sunrise or some stupid
bullshit while we spend 20 minutes remembering how our shower works?
But if you don't keep a regular sleep schedule (you know, the way most normal human beings don't), your body never learns the proper rhythm, and you wind up relying solely on your alarm clock to tear you from the sweet embrace of sleep. It's a tremendously unpleasant way to wake up, which makes hitting the snooze button all the more attractive. Unfortunately, the feel-good wave that washes over you as you drift back to Neverland is not all it's cracked up to be.
You see, waking up is a jarring process even when it doesn't happen by way of industrial heavy metal screaming from your iPhone. So your body eases you into wakefulness by reducing the amount of serotonin in your bloodstream and cranking out dopamine. When you hit the snooze button, not only does your body not learn the correct pattern of waking, but it also flicks the dopamine and serotonin switches on and off repeatedly. By the time you drag yourself out of bed, your brain has essentially given you an erratic series of uppers and downers, effectively turning you into a comedian from the 1980s. As a result, your brain is left slow and groggy, riding what is basically the comedown of a night of party drugs without ever having taken anything.
So we guess the takeaway is that if you already sleep badly, you might as well start doing cocaine.
#4. Automatic Hand Dryers Fling Bacteria All Over Your Body Like Germ Bazookas
For many years, we humans struggled with the duality of not wanting to needlessly chop down trees to make paper towels and not wanting our hands to be coated in invisible flakes of wet human shit. Thus, the automatic hand dryer was born. On that glorious day in history, trees across the world rejoiced at their lessened chances of becoming pulp, as humans discovered the futuristic joy of having their freshly-washed hands made uncomfortably damp by a noisy machine before giving up and wiping them on their goddamn pants.
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Research on whether we're all going to go completely goddamn deaf is pending.
And not only are they friendlier for the environment, but hand dryers are also more hygienic. After all, you barely have to touch an automatic hand dryer, whereas countless poop-stained fingers have groped every inch of every paper towel dispenser in creation. So by using the hand dryer, you're exposing yourself to fewer germs ... right?
Not really. Studies have found that opting for an air dryer instead of your granddaddy's paper towels can actually increase the number of germs on your hands by a staggering 255 percent. That's because your average public restroom is the perfect environment for bacteria to get together and sing Boyz II Men to each other -- it's warm, it's moist, and it's stewing in a palpable sense of shame. Consequently, all manner of microbes are coating the air intake of the hand dryer and engaging in a ferocious reenactment of Eyes Wide Shut.
"There's something very important we need to do as soon as possible."
"Fuck over the next person who walks in here."
When you activate the hand dryer to heat the excess water off of your meaty palms, those germs are flung through hyperspace and sprayed all over your fingertips like a microscopic poop shotgun. Conversely, the old-fashioned paper towel method of drying your hands results in the bacteria being wiped off and thrown into the garbage, rather than catapulted all over the front of your body.
#3. Common Pain Relievers Also Dull Your Emotions
If there were an award for Most Popped Pill, Tylenol would have a dusty china cabinet full of them. Its active ingredient (acetaminophen) is present in more medications than you can count. It also has a record for causing acute liver failure that could make Jagermeister hang its antlered head in shame. And if that wasn't terrifying enough, it seems to be capable of transforming us into a race of unfeeling drones.
Back in 2009, Nathan DeWall from the University of Kentucky authored a study demonstrating that acetaminophen eased the pain of social rejection, which is yet one more thing that it does better than Jagermeister. And that makes sense in terms of physiology, since the same neurological switchboard initiates both the pain of a stubbed toe and the shame of posting your accidental butt selfie to Facebook.
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"There. Happy Birthday, Grandm-- Ahhhhh! Noooooooo!"
A more recent study at Ohio State University reinforced the finding that Tylenol can alleviate psychological pain, with one big-ass caveat: It dulls your positive emotions, too. When two groups of students -- one hopped up on acetaminophen, the other given fistfuls of placebos -- were shown images ranging from very pleasant (such as children playing with baskets of kittens) to very disturbing (such as children eating baskets of kittens), the group taking Tylenol not only ranked the painful images to be less painful, but also reported feeling less joy from the happy ones. In other words, Tylenol gradually robs you of your ability to feel anything at all.
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Imagine going from liking pictures of cats to behaving like one.
Bizarrely, this fogging of emotions seems to have a dulling effect on our sense of mortality as well. In a classic experiment, subjects were split into two groups and asked to set the theoretical bail for a prostitute. Participants in the first group were asked to reflect on their own mortality first, while those in the second group received no priming. The mortality-minded folks set a higher bail -- the thought of their own impending deaths apparently made them super judgmental.
Not counting those who wished they had spent more time with hookers.
When this study was repeated with acetaminophen administered to the death-minded group, everyone agreed upon a more reasonable bail for the hypothetical prostitute. It seems that lessening the sting of their mortality anxiety also lessened their need to impose their own moral beliefs onto others. So look forward to a bunch of posts on your Facebook feed ranting about how Obama is turning us all into liberals by dumping Tylenol into the water supply.