Remember how most of us entered the new Covid world? Excited and motivated to create a new work world, connecting with colleagues and creating amazing work product all from the confines of our dining room tables. Eight months later, most of that exhilaration is gone. And the fatigue… at the foibles of digital technology. The screen freezes. Your voice hums and echoes back at you. You’re talking to a blank screen with squares lit up with initials. A dozen faces stare at you. Everyone is talking at once. You hear—can you hear me—at least a dozen times daily. And then it starts over. The next day and the day after that.
There are so many reasons why you need to restrict the amount of time you spend in front of a digital screen. More hours spent at a computer or smartphone means fewer hours being physically active, and now there is enough data to suggest that the blue light emanating from screens can stimulate the brain and make it difficult to fall asleep.
There’s another issue, a condition called computer vision syndrome, an umbrella term for conditions that result from looking at a computer or smartphone screen from an arm’s length or closer, says Dr. Tulika Goleria, a Mumbai based ophthalmologist. Two of the commonest fallouts of computer vision syndrome, she says arise from staring at a screen for hours. One is dry eyes and the other eye strain or digital fatigue.
When you stare at a screen while working or reading, you often forget to blink. The ideal blink rate is 15 times a minute, and this can go down to as little as five or seven times per minute,” she says. Blinking, she explains, re-establishes the tear film on the eyes, the thin layer of liquid that protects the surface of the eye. When you don’t blink enough, the eyes dry out, making them feel gritty and can cause blurry vision, pain and even excessive watering.
The second common problem caused by staring at screens is eye strain. “A possible culprit” says Dr. Goleria, “is the brightness or glare that comes from the screen.” Many people don’t even know they need prescription eyeglasses and end up simply increasing the font size on their monitors or increasing the brightness of the screen, both of which are big contributors to eye strain. “Even staring at the screen closely without the proper eyeglass prescription can cause fatigue.” She says it’s very important to go for periodic eye checks because if you ever find yourself straining to read the back of a bottle or the list of ingredients on a packet of biscuits, chances are you need reading glasses and you’ve resisted getting them. “Headaches are sore eyes are also common symptoms because you’ve exhausted your eyes’ ability to focus,” she says.