Keep Your Computer From Destroying Your Eyesight

Keep Your Computer From Destroying Your Eyesight

Photo: Ariel Zambelich/WIRED

Staring at the computer all day is horrible on your eyes. All those brightly colored pixels clashing with the lighting around you is a recipe for eye fatigue and strain.

Adhering to the 20-20-20 rule — looking away from your screen every 20 minutes for 20 seconds and focusing on a fixed point 20 feet away — and blinking more are good places to start. But you can also make a few quick physical adjustments to your monitor and computer settings.

Monitor Position
Your screen should be 20-30 inches away from you and your eyes should be level with the very top of your monitor. If you don’t have ability to adjust your screen’s height, a stack of hardcover books should do the trick. Or simply raise or lower your chair’s position. The key thing here is to be looking down at your work. The center of the screen should be located 15-20 degrees below horizontal eye level.

Text Size and Color
A good rule of thumb: Text should be three times the smallest size you can read from a normal viewing position — which, again, should be 20-30 inches from your monitor. When it comes to color combinations, your eyes prefer black text on a white background or other dark-on-light combinations. Avoid low contrast text/background color schemes.

Display Brightness and Glare
You want your monitor’s brightness to match your surrounding workspace brightness. To achieve this, look at the white background of this page. If it looks like a light source in the room, it’s too bright. If it seems dull and gray, it’s probably too dark. If you work in a shiny reflective office, applying a glare reduction filter to your screen can also provide relief.

Color Temperature
The easiest way to optimize your monitor’s color temperature is to use F.lux. This free app uses your location to automatically adjust your display to pre-determined color temperatures that match your lighting environment based on whether the sun is up or down.

To set those color temperatures, the application’s light adjustment slider uses degrees of Kelvin. The Kelvin color temperature scale is based on the color of a black body radiator as it heats up. A black radiator at 2700k degrees glows at the same color (an orangish-red hue) as a tungsten light. As the temperature rises, the radiator takes on the blueish hue of a sunny day (5700k).

A good way to see color temperature at work is to look into homes at night (but don’t be a creeper). Most homes use tungsten lighting which creates a warm, orange-red color. From the outside, you can see the color. Inside, your eyes adjust to the color temperature and the warm tungsten light is less noticeable. What is noticeable is the bluish glow of your computer screen against the warm color, and this is one of the major sources of eye fatigue. That’s where f.lux comes in.

During the daylight hours, f.lux keeps your monitor relatively cool with a default color temperature of 6500K. Your brain tends to associate blue light with daylight. At night, f.lux dials down the color temperature to a warmer, more yellow glow (3400K). You can also choose from presets (Candle, Tungsten, Halogen, Fluorescent, and Daylight) or adjust the settings to another specific preference. In general, the yellower the light, the less straining it is on your eyes (Gunnar Optiks knows this, of course).

The best way to set f.lux is to adjust it in the environment you usually work in during the day and night. First, bring up a blank white text screen and adjust the color temperature of your display by trying to match the color of a white wall in the room. Once they match in both lighting environments, you’re on your way to much happier eyes.


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