Our days are dominated by screens. We spend the majority of our days staring at them. Whether we’re staring at the oversized cell phone, the giant monitor (or three) on our desk, or the huge tablet, in addition to being constantly connected, it seems like we are always in front of a screen. As we make our way through each day, we jump from screen to screen, clicking, scrolling, streaming (sometimes simultaneously), as we flip channels on our giant TV screen.
As people of all ages are spending more and more time focused on digital screens, their eyes are getting an exhausting endurance workout. In the days of high-tech jobs and constant technological innovation, unavoidably, digital screens seem to be infiltrating every aspect of our daily lives.
Although there have been many discussions about how excessive screen time impacts our mental health and well-being, debates about alternative ways to combat the physical repercussions of screen time, other than going completely offline, haven’t been so widespread or popular.
How bad is it?
It’s common knowledge that spending too many hours staring at a screen can cause eye strain. Since we tend to blink less while staring at the blue-light emitting screen, the movement of the screen makes our eyes work harder to focus. We also typically don’t position the screen at the appropriate distance or angle, which may cause added stress on our eyes. All these issues add up and can lead to serious eye strain.
Digital devices, most commonly with LED and LCD screens, generally used in smartphones, laptops, monitors and TVs, release blue light. This light scatters more easily than other visible light, it is not as easily focused.
When you’re looking at computer screens and other digital devices which emit significant amounts of blue light, this unfocused visual “noise” reduces contrast and can contribute to digital eye strain.
Blue light can also reach the inner lining of the back of your eye, commonly called your retina and damage the light-sensitive cells in it. This can lead to early age-related macular degeneration, which can ultimately lead to loss of eyesight.
The E Ink Alternative
Unlike LED and LCD smartphones, TV and monitors, E ink displays, in phones like , are not backlit. The LEDs are located around the outside perimeter of the screen, and the display is designed to scatter the light across the surface, so the effect is softer than what you’d experience with a standard LCD or LED display.
E Ink displays don’t produce light, but instead reflect it, the same way the pages of a book do.
In a 2013 study, conducted by The National Center for Biotechnology Information  (NCBI), a center within the National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health, researchers examined the extent of visual fatigue as a result of prolonged use of three devices. Participants in the study took part in extended reading sessions on LCD displays, E-ink displays and traditional paper books. Results suggested that reading on an LCD display triggers higher visual fatigue than reading text on the E ink display or a paper book.
Researchers reason that, since an E ink display doesn’t emit any light of its own, just like regular paper, this might explain why it might be better for us than reading while using tablets or laptops. The matte screen of an E ink display does not trigger visual strain in the same way as staring at an LCD screen for an extended period of time does.
Although screens are everywhere and we cannot avoid them altogether, we can make reasonable choices to limit the amount of blue light which eyes are exposed to.
There is a growing consensus surrounding the use of E Ink screens which suggests that they are a healthier alternative to the light-emitting screens which we use every day with our phones, TVs, computer monitors, and tablets.
By choosing an E ink display, perhaps we can give finally our tired eyes a rest and prevent unnecessary visual strain.
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