Earlier in March, NTT Docomo, Japan's largest mobile service provider, posted a photo on their Twitter account warning users about a potential finger deformity known as "smartphone pinky".
Docomo did not provide any links to a medical source nor any information about the origins of the hand photo shown here:
【指が変形！？】スマホの持ち方によっては「テキストサム損傷」になってしまうことも・・・。特定の指に負担をかけすぎないように、ときどき持ち方を変えたり休憩を取ってくださいね。 pic.twitter.com/poJYY8iZr1— ドコモ公式サポート (@docomo_cs) March 5, 2015
The warning roughly translates to "Finger deformation! Damage by holding the Smartphone ... Do not put all of the burden on certain fingers, occasionally change the hold or take a break".
Still, the warning quickly went viral, and soon Twitter users were posting photos of their own "smartphone pinky" deformities:
Oh man.. I have "smartphone pinky" pic.twitter.com/iL2reM2niM— Maya Matouk ♡مايا (@MayaMatouk_) March 16, 2015
Holy shit. Saw this on twitter and i looked at my finger and I'm like damnnnnn pic.twitter.com/jPunOt0ycG— Kardashian Reactions (@KardashianReact) March 15, 2015
As previously reported by Snopes, while it's possible that some smartphone users have experienced pain in their little finger from overusing their devices, it's highly unlikely that holding a smartphone could result in the creation of such a dent in the pinky.
Pain experienced from smartphone overuse is referred to as Repetitive Strain Injury and has been used to describe technology-related traumas such as "BlackBerry thumb" and "Nintendinitis".
So then what explains the so-called "smartphone pinky"?
According to a Palaeolithic archaeologist and Ph.D. researcher from Kent University, we humans have been using our little finger to hold stuff since long before the invention of smartphones. He said that the "smartphone grip is quite similar to when you hold a small stone core or hand-axe, so it's essentially doing the same job."
So where are all the photos of "smartphone pinky" coming from?
As Snopes points out, the most likely answer is that these photos do not show finger deformities caused by holding smartphones.
Instead these photos likely depict a condition known as Clinodactyly, identified by a slight curvature of the fingers. This condition often goes undiagnosed since only severe cases interfere with normal function.