As someone growing up in the Information Age, I will readily admit that I have loved every moment of the advancements — mostly because they have made my schooling, my job and my overall life easier. Gone are the days of waiting for what seems hours for a computer to start up, where, once it did eventually make its way to the home screen, you could barely get anything to open because of all the viruses from your seemingly harmless downloads. Remember dial-up Internet? Many of us have been given the opportunity to access broadband these days, making all the information we could ever desire a mere click away (as opposed to minutes).
Computers used to be these insanely bulky contraptions that almost made you wonder if there were some tiny human lurking inside of them that was really doing all the dirty work. Today, I have this slip of a laptop that is so light and airy I can practically go for a run with it.
I’m also the type of person who feels overwhelmed, if not saddened by some of these advancements, too. Mostly because I feel like we are getting further and further away from nature, holed up in rooms where all we see is a screen for hours on end. This is why it is no surprise to me that, in recent news, it’s been found that computer screens are affecting our health in strange and detrimental ways.
I remember when the amount of computer screen time I clocked was measured by a 60-minute middle school class once a week, where I spent the majority of my time trying to understand the foreign thing in front of me. Then it moved to Saturday mornings at home trying to play Solitaire. Eventually, it became a bidding war between family members to get in some screen time after work and school each night, which some days gave me an hour to talk to my friends on AOL, and other times zero because I was mean to my sister and was banned from using any technology.
Today, it’s pretty intense. And not just for me. In fact, almost 90 percent of Americans are on their devices for at least two hours a day. Even more absurd is that 70 percent of us are attached to multiple screens at the same time. We live in a world ruled by digital devices like smart phones, laptops, and tablets — and it’s paying a price, with 65 percent of people reporting physical symptoms of using them. These findings come from a new survey by the Vision Council.
The survey, which polled more than 10,000 adults, discovered an alarming amount of side effects, including digital eye strain, which is most prominent in people in their twenties. Justin Bazan, who is an optometrist and medical adviser to The Vision Council, explained, “What we’re finding is that Millennials especially are very comfortable working on multiple screens and multiple devices.”
There’s even a name for it: Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), which the American Optometric Association (AOA) defines as: “the complex of eye and vision problems related to near work which are experienced during, or related to, computer use.”
Here’s a look at some of the symptoms:
Dry, Irritated Eyes
What happens when you have a staring contest? Your eyes experience a burning sensation that you fight off for as long as you can before one of you eventually gives in and blinks. Clocking extensive amounts of screen time is much like this. You blink much less frequently when you’re staring at your digital device due to the distance (eight to 12 inches) between your eyes and your screen. When you blink less, the eye surface dries out and experiences irritation.
“The screen should be at or just beyond an arm’s length away (about 20 to 26 inches) to give the eyes a comfortable focusing distance,” notes the Scheie Eye Institute at Penn Medical Center.
Blue light has been at the forefront of the controversy surrounding our affection for staring at screens. Similar to UV light, studies have found that it can wreak havoc on your retinal cells, which are responsible for producing our vision.
Headaches can be uncomfortable and sometimes entirely intolerable. But often times, they can also be avoidable by taking care of our wellbeing. They’re thought to be a symptom of CVS due to the brightness and contrast of the monitor, which can produce an indirect glare that strains the eyes.
Neck Or Back Pain
From the time we’re kids to the time we’re taking up yoga classes, we’re being told to elongate our spines, since many of us have a nasty habit of hunching over. The reason it’s so important to be upright is because our spines aren’t meant for such a curvature, and the result of habitual hunching can cause neck and back pain. When we’re sitting at our computer desk, we’re often slumping as a result of the direction of our eyes, which is downward.
Limit your screen time is an obvious one. This includes TV’s, cell phones, tablets and computers.
Especially later in the day, use programs like f.lux to block the blue light coming from your screen. This not only helps your eyes but also helps you sleep by telling your brain later in the day that “it’s not day time.” Blue light from our screens tell our brains it’s day time even when it’s not, making it harder for us to produce chemicals that help us sleep.
Take regular breaks and avoid looking at things on screens that are constantly straining your view. You will notice you squint when looking at these things.