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Then and Now: Vision in the Active Digital Life

There was a time when many of our daily activities required just as many different devices or environments. This time is commonly referred to as “back in the day” by most people, especially Generation X. That generation has been present through the shift from the analog world to the digital one. We’ve changed the way we behave and have fun, yet we haven’t completely changed the way we interact with our digital environment.

Take sporting equipment. As the power and skill of athletes have increased, sports equipment has advanced to protect us and give us an advantage. From shoes that form to the feet to provide a better running surface to golf clubs that correct imperfections in the swing to avoid injury, we are protected. Yet, when it comes to digital – computer based – activities, many haven’t adopted the same outlook on protecting themselves. Do we not think that staring at a computer for extended periods of time hurts us just as much as running a 5k in bad shoes would?

We have changed the way we do certain things, but haven’t changed the way we protect ourselves – specifically our eyes. Sure, this is Gunnar Optiks and we’re all about protecting your eyes, but there still seems to be some doubt that our eyes are as fragile as we think they are. We still perceive the eight hour work-day, or the four hour gaming session as the only time we would need Gunnars. That is just not true. Consider these six activities, how we used to and how we now do.

Listening to Music

Back in the day (there’s that phrase again) we would fire up the record player, or the tape deck. We would listen to music while doing other activities, from cleaning to working and so on. With the advent of the Walkman, we took our music with us everywhere we went. That hasn’t changed with Mp3 players. What has changed is the way we organize our music. Instead of making mix tapes (I used to record songs off the radio) we now sit in front of the computer, purchasing or torrenting music. This is an everyday activity for most people, staring at the bright glare of iTunes or Amazon Cloud Player. Music isn’t just an auditory activity anymore, it’s visual as well.

Watching a Movie

On the surface, it might appear as if nothing has changed in the practice of watching movies. We still are sitting in front of a screen, watching Ryan Reynolds argue with Jason Bateman while urinating in a fountain and so on. Yet, something significant has changed – distance. There are recommended viewing distances for television screens, based on the size of the screen. These distances are based on several factors, viewability and eye strain being two of them. Yet, when we watch movies on computers monitors, as we tend to do more often, the distance is significantly decreased.

This decreased distance, in both watching movies and playing video games, is not doing our eyes any favors. When we sit on our couch watching movies or gaming from the appropriate distance, your eyes are more relaxed and you are able to focus easier. Yet, we think nothing different when we watch or game with a monitor mere inches from our faces. Think about this difference, and how it affects your vision.

Reading the News

Who doesn’t remember sitting at the kitchen table in the morning, sipping coffee and reading the paper? You know, the paper, that rolled piece of black and white printed material that was out in the driveway in a bag every morning. Well, perhaps you remember your parents reading the paper, or your grandparents. Either way, there was no glare from the newspaper. There was no eye strain, except for that really small type on the political cartoons.

Now, we all use our digital devices for the news. From our phones while we’re on the bus, or our computers at work – we’re staring at screens more and more. Tack on the 24 hour news cycle, and we’re constantly reading the news. Then tack on live video on your phone, such as for the NFL, and we’re getting more information than ever before from a glowing screen close to our faces.

Interacting with People

Well, unless you are having someone dictate this article to you, this is a good example of how we interact with people. Not only do we get our news and information online but we have more and more conversations online. Watch your children, they aren’t hanging out after school, sitting on the back of your car and chatting. They are staring into their phones or other devices. Hell, we all are. We’re glaring at our iPads, our iPad Mini’s and so on. Yet again, we take no mind to what that glare is doing to our vision, confused by the headaches and eye strain.

While those of us old enough to remember a day when we had to rotary dial our friends to hang out behind the 7-11, kids are now glued to their devices. There are no long term studies showing any effects of this type of eye strain. Genetically, we will of course adapt over time (perhaps a few million years), as this kind of behavior becomes the standard. Until then though, it can only benefit your eye health using proper protection.

Making Music

By now, you have got to be seeing a trend in how we interact with the creative world. From graphic design to doing homework and so on, we’re using computer screens. Music, has become one of those things that requires numerous on screen programs and editing software. It’s not all done with just plugging in and cutting the tape. Not to mention the slate of musicians that use computers to compose pretty much everything and anything. We’re using our eyes just as much as our ears to make music.

Playing Sports

I think you get the trend here. We’re spending much more of our lives in the digital realm, replacing activities that used to take place either outside or in more social environments. While kids still play organized sports, with video games we tend to play just as much sports on a screen. This is yet another example of how we are stressing our eyes further than we ever have before. There is a huge difference between using your eyes to hit a ball being thrown to you, and hitting a button to hit a ball being thrown to you virtually.

The way we use vision in the digital world speaks to the future of technology and the advances that have been made in how we interact with every aspect of the world. Advances have been made in how we use our eyes to view, yet we seem to not realize there is a paradigm shift in vision. Gunnars saw the world changing and created something to help you adapt to living life in the digital world. Or, if you prefer, you can wait until the next shift in our evolutionary process.

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