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The pandemic of the year 2020 shook the entire world to its core. It felt as though everything about our lives had forever changed. After the first few months, we were hoping and praying for things to go back to normal. Today, it seems like we have gotten used to the “new normal”. When it first hit, we had to be very quick in adapting digital technologies to keep our businesses running as usual. From personal interactions to enterprise collaboration, and academics, there was a huge shift to digital apps. The use of teleconference applications like Zoom, Google Meet, and WebEx, skyrocketed, as compared to previous years. WebEx reported that the meeting and minute usage around the world doubled, at the start of the pandemic. Microsoft reported a 500% increase in use of its Teams platform. Zoom also experienced an exponential increase in downloads.
Research comparing screen usage before the pandemic, versus after mandatory stay-at-home orders were issued, shows a substantial increase in the average daily screen time of an individual. According to statistics, children, of all ages, now spend almost double the time in front of a screen, going from three hours, to almost six hours a day. Adults have also seen their average daily screen time increase from ten hours to thirteen hours. The pandemic-driven digital technology adoption has evidently shifted how people communicate and interact with each other.
Regardless of the inconvenience, it may have initially felt great for people to have discovered the full capabilities of technology and virtual interaction. But as the saying goes, “Too much of a good thing is bad”. The overconsumption of these virtual platforms has led to many mental and physical effects, such as exhaustion, anxiety, and burnout. “Zoom fatigue” has been coined as the term to describe the exhaustion that people experience after constantly using virtual platforms. The signs of Zoom fatigue included a hard time concentrating, increased irritability, difficulty maintaining interpersonal relationships, as well as fatigue and insomnia. We cannot help but notice the impacts that also suggest the existence of computer vision syndrome (CVS), or digital eye strain, which can be caused by using electronic devices for prolonged hours.
Modern device screens are usually equipped with light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that emit wavelengths in the blue light range of 400-490 nanometers. This increase in direct exposure to blue light may seem harmless, but in reality, it can be very detrimental to ocular health. Research indicates that prolonged periods of sitting in front of electric devices can cause ocular complications, like eye itchiness, dry eye, eye strain, and nearsightedness. In extreme cases, there is also the possibility of more serious long-term diseases, that can develop due to specific kind of blue light ultraviolet (UV) rays that every screen emits.
The retina and macular region of the human eye are very sensitive to the exposure of light. However, the lens and cornea of the eye prevent harmful UV rays from reaching them. This is generally effective in preventing most light from reaching these sensitive regions. Nevertheless, visible blue light is capable of bypassing these protective layers. This means that when we directly look at a phone, computer, or TV screen, these blue light UV rays are hitting our retina and macular regions. Aside from the pressure of having to keep your camera on all the time, trying to have some semblance of a real-world engagement without being physically present and having to decode people’s expressions and demeanor, the constant exposure to blue light exacerbates the effects of CVS and leads to Zoom fatigue, that many of us experience.
It’s almost impossible to avoid staring into a screen these days. Zoom fatigue may be inevitable for many of us, who have created a “new normal” with the various virtual platforms at our disposal. But there are ways to prevent the adverse symptoms. Consider these tips:
At NURILENS, we strive to bring solutions when problems arise. We understand, firsthand, the effects of the extended use of electronic devices. We are confident that our frames can prove to be valuable assets in this digital-centric world, and even prevent Zoom fatigue. Our blue light blocking lenses are equipped to not only protect your vision, but also empower you to see through the lens of your purpose!