It’s not just our muscles and bones that are burdened. People spending more time gazing at screens have found that their vision is suffering, too. “When people stare at the screen all day, they don’t blink very often, and their eyes tend to dry out,” Sunir Garg, an ophthalmologist, clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, and professor at Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia, told me. “When the eyes feel kind of dry, scratchy, and prickly, it can make things blurry.” That can be exacerbated by spending all your waking hours indoors, in bone-dry heating and cooling systems.
Even for people who spent their workdays indoors and on a computer before the pandemic, the routine of going into work—the process of getting dressed, going outside, getting in a car or boarding a train, interacting with co-workers, attending a meeting or two, and maybe going to happy hour afterward—likely provided enough variation and visual novelty to head off some of the vision problems people are having now. One thing Garg cautions against faulting, though, is the light given off by computers and phones—so-called blue-light glasses have become a hot commodity in the past year; sales of at least one brand have more than doubled as people look for ways to soothe their strained, tired eyes. Absorbing that light in the evenings can throw off sleep patterns, but there is no evidence that it harms vision or strains eyes. “There’s a ton of blue light coming from the sun,” Garg said. “When most people had outdoor jobs, we were getting oodles more blue light from the sun than we ever would from our screens.”