Last week, countless people across the world simultaneously tilted their heads forward and rubbed their forefingers into the back of their skulls, anxiously feeling around for a, uh, horn. According to new research, written up by the Washington Post, young people have been sprouting “hornlike spikes,” a.k.a. “bone spurs,” from the backs of their skulls owing to the incessant tilting forward of the head to stare at their phones. “The forward tilt of the head … shifts weight from the spine to the muscles at the back of the head,” the Post reported, “causing bone growth in the connecting tendons and ligaments.”
Panic — and intrigue — ensued. But, it turns out, it was all probably for nothing.
Just days after the Post made us worry about our smartphone addiction, skeptical experts and media outlets started to suspect that the study was bullshit — and it appears they were right. In one report, Quartz investigated one of the authors of the study: David Shahar, a researcher at the University of Sunshine Coast in Queensland who reportedly found every study participant through his personal chiropractic practice. (This detail was not included in the paper.) Per Quartz, Shahar specializes in treating what he calls the “poor-posture epidemic” at his clinic, and he also used to run an online store dedicated to products geared to thwart the “epidemic.”
When asked by Quartz whether there was a conflict of interest at hand, Shahar responded, “I have been largely inactive in that front over the years of my research, and this research does not discuss any particularly related intervention methods.” But experts still aren’t convinced of Shahar’s findings — and understandably so.
“If you really wanted to get a look at the effects of smartphone use on neck health, you’d want data from the general population, not people who were already concerned about neck or back pain,” Quartz reports.
Lovely! Now we can go back to being irresponsibly codependent on our iPhones without a single concern about sharp horns jutting out of our skulls.