Digital Fatigue Is Real…And Here To Stay

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.

Digital Fatigue

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.

Treating Digital Fatigue

Luckily, both dry eyes and eye strain are treatable conditions. You can try using any popular brand of artificial tears several times throughout the day to treat dry eyes. These add back the necessary lubrication your eyes need to feel comfortable. Another important tip: consciously remind yourself to blink from time to time.

If you find yourself suffering from eye strain and headaches after looking at the computer screen, make sure your eyeglass prescription is up to date. If you don’t wear glasses, this is a good time to get an eye check. “Wearing the right glasses with blue light filters and anti-glare coating can hugely reduce eyestrain,” says Dr. Goleria, recounting the instance of a 40-year-old patient who had ever needed glasses, but came in reporting frequent headaches. “Once he got reading glasses, the headaches were gone!”

How to Treat Digital Fatigue
Tips To Avoid Digital Fatigue

Other Tips To Avoid Digital Fatigue

  • Sit in a well-lit workplace and keep the computer screen at a distance of two feet from your eyes to reduce eyestrain.
  • Make sure the centre of the computer monitor is four to eight inches below eye level. Invest in a computer stand if required.
  • Use a matte screen filter on your laptop screen to reduce glare from your smartphone, computer screen or tablet.
  • Use a larger font to keep your eyes from working hard to see letters, but do wear reading glasses if you need them.
  • Follow the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look away at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds
  • Don’t sit too close to a big-screen TV because that could cause neck strain. Ideally, keep a distance of seven to 11 feet from a 55-inch TV screen or five to eight feet from a 40-inch TV screen.

About Madhavi Irani

A content strategy professional with over two decades of global experience in offline and online publications, Madhavi is passionate about creating content-to-commerce, immersive, multimedia strategies. She loves mentoring and leading young, enthusiastic teams as much as she loves cooking for and feeding friends and playing with her dog.