Screen Time, Pt I

My eyes need a break.


My screen time has drastically increased this year. Ten months ago, the thought of retrieving my glasses from their storage bin and wearing them at the computer was asinine. I would have scoffed at the idea of scaling a display or sitting closer to a screen, yet these are my best options when computing without glasses.

It started with the headaches. A promotion at work saw me staring at a monitor for the entire workday, a 3x increase in screen time from my previous responsibilities. After only a couple of weeks, I found myself with headaches at the end of some workdays. I was astonished at how much more relaxed my eyes felt when I eventually brought my glasses in. No more headaches, and no more craning my neck towards the monitor. The proper ergonomic distance between eyes and monitor is approximately an arm’s length away, a posture I was unable to achieve previously.

This is not to imply that additional screen time has permanently degraded my vision; rather, I hadn’t realized the fullness of my astigmatism before this relatively large screen time increase. It is my inference that the extra six or so hours of staring directly at a light source would put my eyes under more strain than usual, whereas my previous screen time was intermittent and brief enough to not cause these levels of strain.

My high levels of screen time (and sitting) are starting to feel like a very slow death to me, so I’ll be employing some strategies to help change this. I still want to use my computers as much as I can - they are my favorite tools, and I enjoy creating and learning with them - but it is very apparent that I need to adjust my processes and develop new habits.

First, I propose a “blue light cooldown”. I will avoid blue light at least an hour before going to sleep, as well as at least an hour after waking up. This has the added benefit of preventing Internet or communication-related distractions.

I will seek out offline activities for the evening, once I reach my screen-time cutoff. There are plenty of books, puzzles, and other relaxing screen-free activities to keep me occupied as I wind down for the night. Of course, reading can strain eyes, even on paper or e-ink, but much less so than screens in my experience.

On the topic of e-ink, I will be using an e-ink display (DASUNG Paperlike HD-FT with warm desk light) for certain computer activites, not just before bed but whenever applicable. Writing (nothing technical which requires image editing) or reading sites on the Internet are well-suited for this type of display; I am already used to, and many times prefer grayscale browsing, as my phone has been color-filtered for years now.

Finally, I will attempt to adhere to the 20-20-20 rule, wherein I take 20 seconds to stare at an object ~20 feet away every 20 minutes when using a screen, e-ink or otherwise.

As indicated by the title, there will be a follow-up to this post with my results and takeaways.

It’s time to give my eyes a break.


Tagged: digital minimalism ergonomics productivity technology