The media is full of stories about how bad computer use is for our vision. But that’s not really true. Using a computer in general is not bad for the eyes. The problem that we do it wrong. Just watch a colleague or friend work on the computer and you will notice how most people stare at the screen.
As if the screen is big hole that sucks us in. Eye movement and blinking are very reduced in an effort to see the whole screen equally clear at once. Which is tiresome not just for the eyes but the mind as well. Headaches, dry eyes, blurry vision, fatigue are the common responses of the body. To avoid this, move your attention across the screen while blinking effortlessly every few seconds. Remember that you can only see one tiny spot perfectly clear at any given time, so move your peepers around.
The second bad habit most people have that they stare at the screen for hours a time without a break. The eyes are locked into a fixed accommodative state, meaning they are fixed onto a specific point in a specific distance. That’s the equivalent of sitting cross-legged for hours at a time. Of course your legs will be numb and need a while to walk again properly. Yet we expect our eyes to do this in split seconds, and get frustrated when we look up after a long time and everything’s blurry. So, it’s important to look up from the screen every 10-15 minutes, let your gaze wander around the room or look outside the window for a minute or so.
But that’s not everything. Equally important to keep your vision in perfect shape is the peripheral vision, which is basically shut down when we concentrate too hard on the screen in front of us.
Our visual field has a radius of about 180º horizontally and 90º vertically with both eyes together. With one eye the horizontal field of vision is about 140º, the overlap of both eyes about 120º. Why does it matter when working on a computer? Isn’t peripheral vision only important when outside to see dangers looming around us?
Simply put, no. Peripheral vision is our “rod” vision, the receptor cells that detect motion and provide us with black and white night vision. In contrast, our central “cone” vision is not larger than 2-4º and created by the cone cells that provide us with detail and color in daylight.
When focusing on the central vision alone we create an artificial tunnel vision which is rigid with a lot of strain. This tunnel vision promotes the unhealthy staring habit and suppresses the natural frequent blinking, necessary to lubricate the eyes and keep the attention soft. Peripheral vision encourages eye movement since our attention can freely move to the next thing we ‘catch’. It’s a continuous, soft flow of moving attention.
How can we stimulate our peripheral vision when working? We need to put something interesting into our peripheral field, and it needs to move. Streamers that gently swing in the breeze or bouncy objects such as mobiles or chimes are perfect to keep our attention soft and avoid tiring tunnel vision. The children’s party head piece is probably not proper office attire, but can be used for peripheral stimulation as needed, especially if mobiles and other fixed installations are not possible at the office.
Remember to switch sides of the desk to stimulate the other side of your visual field. Or install the mobile in a flexible way, so it can be moved to the other side. Best is to have stimulators on both sides of course, even if it’s just a dangling toy hanging from the desk lamp. Be creative!
Some pretty choices available for purchase (click image for store link):