Why You Should Limit Exposure to Digital Devices this Winter
Today people are living device-driven lifestyles—between your work life and personal time, you likely interact with digital screens throughout the majority of your day, whether it be through a smartphone, computer, tablet, or television. Now that electronics are so prominent in everyday routines, most people have begun using them subconsciously. Studies have shown that 66% of Americans check their smartphones at least 160 times per day.
Additionally, you’re most likely also affected by the winter months, daylight savings time, and COVID-19 restrictions, which are keeping people indoors more often and causing them to use digital technology more than usual. While these devices have become more of a necessity than a luxury, you shouldn’t be engaging with them at all times as they can have harmful effects on your mental and physical health.
Although remote work and social distancing are safe and necessary, they have caused people to rely more heavily on screens over the past 11 months. Digital fatigue has become known as a state of mental exhaustion and disengagement that occurs when people use various digital tools and apps concurrently. Employees are experiencing many symptoms of digital fatigue, which have been identified as extreme forms of burnout.
Symptoms of digital fatigue include:
- Sore neck, back, or shoulders
- Sensitivity to light
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling overwhelmed or hopeless
- Irritable behavior
- Eye pain, tiredness, or burning
This can be brought on by many factors, the most common being:
- Excessive self-awareness during video conferencing
- Extensive effort to process non-verbal cues through video and messaging services
- Fear of leaving workstations
- Not having separation between work life and personal life
- Relying on digital devices outside of work hours as well
Although it seems impossible to avoid digital screens these days, there are a few effective solutions that can help you interact with your devices as needed while reducing digital fatigue simultaneously. Some solutions include:
- Taking a break from your screen after 15-30 minutes of use to take a walk, relax, and let your eyes readjust
- Track your breaks with a time tracking service, like Hours
- Incorporating phone calls into your daily meeting schedule if video conferencing isn’t necessary
- Taking notes with pen and paper rather than on your devices
- Changing up your daily routine to avoid the feeling of hopelessness
- Logging off outside of work hours and using digital devices less frequently outside of work (e.g., limiting tv and social media use)
Using any of these tactics will give you much-needed space away from your screens. You will feel more refreshed and less stressed once you allow yourself to take a break and refocus your eyes and mind.
Digital Eye Strain
One of the side effects of digital fatigue is eye pain, tiredness, or burning, which can be directly related to what is commonly known as digital eye strain. This side effect describes a group of eye and vision-related problems that result from prolonged screen interaction. The average American employee spends roughly 7-hours per day on their computer while working remotely or in-office, which does not include the amount of time they’re engaging with screens outside of work hours as well.
The most common symptoms of digital eye strain include headaches, blurred vision, and dry eyes. These types of issues are primarily caused by poor lighting, glare on screens, improper viewing distance, and uncorrected vision problems.
People affected most by digital eye strain are those who excessively look at screens or have unaddressed visual impairments. If your eye strain is brought on by heavy screen time you should follow the suggested solutions for digital fatigue. However, if you have uncorrected vision problems you will have to take further steps to correct this problem.
If you have nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, or age-related vision decline, it could be a driving cause of your digital eye strain. You should first see an eye doctor to determine if you have vision-related problems, or if your current vision problems have changed or worsened; followed by taking the necessary steps to correct the problem. This can include updating your current eyeglass prescription for maximum clarity or using contact lenses as an alternative because they have the potential to keep your eyes better hydrated and focused while you’re looking at your screens, thus eliminating two of the three main symptoms.
It’s important to make yourself aware of any vision impairments you might have because they can affect your vision more than you may have realized.
It can be easy to slip into a screen heavy routine during winter and quarantine but providing you make yourself aware of the signs and symptoms of potentially harmful syndromes, you can alter your lifestyle to work with screens, rather than against them.