Picture this: I had just spent 10 hours staring at a computer screen. It was time to wind down, so I left my home office, I picked up my Xbox controller and started a game of Halo multiplayer. My eyes were trashed and enemies zipped across the screen like fuzzy, colored blobs, but I was confident I could divide friend from foe.
So when I saw an enemy vehicle race toward me, I did what I always do: Obnoxiously launch rockets, put down my controller, and lean back, smugly, listening to the sweet, sweet sound of crunching metal and the BOOM of massive, fire-y explosions.
Instead of kudos from teammates for wiping out several members of the opposing team, a pre-teen’s voice invaded my mic. At the approximate volume of a 747 taking off, my young teammate unloaded a massive string of foul curse words and personal threats against me, my family AND my dog. My aim was true, but my eyes had fooled me. There weren’t any enemies in the vehicle – there was only him, and boy was he was mad.
Although that scenario is nothing like, say, actually using a rocket launcher on a real-life vehicle, or thinking that raccoon in your kitchen is your pet, staring at a computer screen day after day can do terrible things to your eyes. Here are some tips on protecting and preserving your eyesight in the digital age:
Invest in computer or gaming glasses
Why do our eyes hurt after staring at a computer all day? Two things: blue light and focusing on a fixed distance. If you have the cash, several companies offer prescription and non-prescription glasses with amber-hued lenses that cut back on glare and blue light, reducing eye-strain. As someone who uses Gunnar-brand glasses whenever I remember to do so, I can assure you they are a worthwhile investment.
Use an app to adjust your screen’s brightness
Is it natural to be bathed in blue, flickering light when it’s still dark outside? Absolutely not. F.lux, one of my favorite apps, adjusts the light (and color) on your screen based on the time of day. For instance, in the morning, F.lux makes the light from your screen look like sunlight. When the sun sets, F.lux changes the color and brightness to look like indoor light. While F.lux isn’t the answer to all your problems, it delivers a proper, natural adjustment to your environment – especially when you’re burning the midnight oil.
Exercise your eyes every 20 minutes
Whenever I hear the words “eye exercises” I think of cheesy 1950s calisthenics. But after doing eye exercises for months and seeing serious results, I’m finally comfortable ditching that association. Start by palming your eyes. Warm up your hands, close your eyes, and cover them lightly with your hands. Do this for a few minutes, take a break, and do it again. Another tip? Look at items in the distance. If you can’t get outside or near a window, look at the objects furthest from you. Spend several minutes focusing on distant spots, and your eyes will feel rested again.
Place your monitor at least an arm’s length away
One of the biggest mistakes telecommuters (or office workers) make is working too close to a computer screen. Mobile phone users do equally bad things, straining their eyes to watch movies, send text messages, or just read posts in their Facebook stream. So, what is the optimal distance for a computer screen? An arm’s length or more. If this is a problem, bump up the font on your docs and web pages. The same goes for mobile phones. If you can, hold your phone at least 12 inches away from your face, and even further if possible.
Recent studies show an alarming increase in Computer Vision Syndrome, the official name for problems caused by screen-watching overload. If you spend way too much time looking at screens all day – whether you toil away at home or under the fluorescent lights of an office – use these tips to keep your eyes fresh throughout the day and into the night.