Come to the Dark Side

Come to the Dark Side

Dark mode switch
Image by Pabitra Kaity from Pixabay

Writers (in general) spend an average of 8-10 hours with their eyeballs glued to a computer screen. If you’re struggling with writer’s block, you might switch to pen and paper, and some people prefer old-school methods for transferring their ideas to print. But if you take a survey, the majority have resigned themselves to technology. And those same people will admit to the steady decline of vision over time. The fact we thrive in cave-like offices doesn’t help (nor does our penchant for banging our skulls against sturdy objects in frustration). But most of that blame? It falls squarely on that glowing screen we glue our eyes to every single day.

Glaring white screens are melting our retinas!

Okay, so that’s an exaggeration. But not by much. The time people spend staring at screens (computer OR phone) leads to eye strain and the resulting fuzzy vision they complain about. And if you didn’t have sparkling 20/20 eye report cards to begin with, the damage accelerates. The result? Dry, red, burning eyes that scream for fluid get blurry on you, and refuse to cooperate when you’re trying to crank out an epic masterpiece. The problem’s grown worse and worse the more “high-def” screens become. Oh, sure, you can now see your words in intense colors, but your poor ocular system doesn’t want to handle that kind of processing all day.

Now, if (like me) you’re old enough to remember the first computer systems, you’ll notice a difference. When you worked on your first word processor or even game, the screen WASN’T anything to write home about. At best, you got a handful of colors clustered into blocks on a black screen. It kept us entertained as kids and allowed us to grind out HOURS of Oregon Trail without a single headache (you know, assuming you didn’t die along the way). You could also write for days at a time – usually ignoring the passage of the sunset and sunrise outside the window. It wasn’t a great time for wrists, but eyes? They rejoiced.

Because the screen was DARK!

Yes, we love seeing our favorite shows and movies displayed in rich colors and definition. It’s driven the optic companies to develop better and better screens. And demand’s pushed those monitors to our work stations and phones. Not a problem if you’re viewing a gallery, but a monstrous issue if you’re trying to edit an encyclopedia. The enhanced brilliance causes your eyes (and brain) to work harder than usual. This results in that dry eye (you don’t blink as often when you’re focused on working), those headaches, and the blurred vision writers and other computer freelancers often complain about. It doesn’t matter how much water you drink, you’ll still find yourself coping with eye issues at the end of the day. The human eye isn’t designed for staring at stark white for extended periods of time. (Our species didn’t evolve in arctic regions where we’d have the supremely-long eyelashes to shield us from the glare) So they start breaking down.

And we troop to our ophthalmologists, begging for solutions. But all of the corrective lenses in the world won’t halt the problem (trust me on this – I’m as blind as you can get without the official designation). Meanwhile, the answer’s at our fingertips: that original black screen computers started with. You got it: DARK MODE! Almost every program or app now allows you to switch your setting to dark mode. And without that horrible white screen boring into your retinas every day, your vision will calm down.

Seriously, try it!

I made the switch months ago after having this discussion with my tattoo artist. (News flash: today’s artists cope with the same problem) Every dark mode I could find? I turned it on. Within a week, my headaches went away. The ache in my orbital rims ceased. I stopped feeling the constant need to rub my eyes throughout the day. And I no longer needed to reach for my artificial tear drops dozens of times a day. Best of all? I stopped squinting at the screen. (Okay, so I wasn’t squinting – I ended up increasing the magnification to read the words) From ONE LITTLE SWITCH!

Now, I notice the difference when I encounter a program that DOESN’T have a dark mode. Within a few moments, my eyes go back to aching. It feels like a knife piercing the back of my head. And I can’t wait to get out of the app and back to my cozy little “cave.” My ophthalmologist? He approves the switch. It’s a recommendation to preserve what little eyesight I have left sans corrective lenses. (Actually, his official suggestion was to stop using a computer, but since that means NOT working, we compromised)

You love writing (or drawing or coding or whatever it is that leaves you glued to a monitor every day). But your eyes HATE it. The least you can do is baby them with a little darkness. That dark mode will make an enormous difference in your life. And even if you DON’T work at a computer all the time, make the switch. (You know you stare at the phone all the time) Your eyeballs will thank you.

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