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When I was a child, I was (subconsciously) vastly irritated by external stimuli. Jarred by sounds, I could not watching movies or television. Stymied by shyness, I preferred not to go out of my way to make friends. In an effort to be left alone, I burrowed my nose in books (quiet things) and spent much of my childhood avoiding tussling with other kids or listening to adults gossip.
At family gatherings, of which there were many, I would sneak into bedrooms to read, or otherwise take up space on the couch, refusing to relinquish my place once settled. On car rides, with typically hours long, I would pack two to three chapter books and read, staying up the entire way using a dim book light. Even at the school playground, I would sit cross-legged on the cement floor with the heaviest novels I can get my hands on. There was no time to waste falling on tanbark and chasing people to tag when there were many other worlds to travel and see. Some children may have found this habit haughty, but I didn’t care what they thought. While they found joy in rough housing, I made myself a personal book club.
A one member only book club.
Adults in my life would comment the same thing anytime they found me engrossed in a book, face inches away from the page (only the better to smell the yellowing mustiness with), eyeballs tethered to words. “You’ll ruin your eyesight if you aren’t careful.” Reasoning ranging from, “You’re reading much too close” to “The light is hardly bright enough”, landed on my ears as adults prompted me to immerse myself in society the normal way – playing with children my age. In retrospect, they had a point, not about the importance of social interaction (for books can teach you more about society than kids can) but rather about the risk of losing my vision, and I surprise even myself to say that after all these years of incessant reading, my eyesight is still registering 20/20.
This is a shocker considering that 75% of America using some sort of device for vision correction. Perhaps, it was the books that saved me.
You see, I was quite an imaginative child. Reading a book meant lifting my head every few minutes to process what I’ve just read. This would cause me to look at a point farther away from where I was sitting while my eyes glazed over and my mind transported me to another place. Since I did most of my reading in my room or outdoors, these mini-breaks meant staring at a far-away tree, or watching a sibling across the hallway in play.
When I am engrossed in a truly gripping tale, you’ll find me scatter-brained, flipping through the pages back and forth, trying to skip parts, piecing the story together impatiently. My eyes were trained to constantly move around, not lock in on one distance or place. According to research, this is a good thing. We need to stimulate our eyes to different focal lengths to prevent fatigue. Thanks to my spacey brain, I unknowingly protected my eyes by doing just that.
Additionally, I spent a majority of my time away from screens. Saturday mornings didn’t mean early cartoons, because I usually stayed up too late on Friday nights trying to finish a book under the covers. I didn’t watch TV, I didn’t use computers too often (until my junior year of high school when AIM took over my life), and I didn’t play video games. I didn’t own a smart phone until I was graduating from college. It was a hand-me-down I-phone 4 when the I-phone 6 was coming out. I didn’t take notes on a laptop like 90% of students. I hand-wrote everything, all the way through dental school at the ripe old age of 26 years old, when my classmates took photographs of Powerpoint presentation on their phones instead of write actual notes. I still had pen and paper in hand. I have had about 8 part-time jobs in my lifetime (Jamba Juice worker, Banana Republic Visuals Specialist, Dental Assistant, Math tutor, School Librarian, Dog-Sitter, Baker), none of which relied on computers, and my actual profession, dentistry, has me mostly occupied in an operatory room rather than at a desk
My only screen-time vice would be this space – my beloved blog. Quarantine has made me especially aware of the impact increased screen-time has on my vision. Stuck at home the past few months guilty of habit-scrolling and incessant COVID-update-refreshing coupled with more blog work, I’ve come to notice a slight strain on my eyes that could only indicate fatigue.
Which makes me wonder, does 75% of Americans need vision correction because of eye damage due to an increasingly digital age?
Enter The Book Club. I fell down a rabbit hole of searching for protective eye wear after I started to notice the symptoms of a stressed vision. I first heard of blue-light blockers from Dr. Hyman’s Farmacy podcast episode with Dave Asprey, who created the simile, “It’s like noise-cancelling headphones for the eyes” when describing a similar product. Both the podcast and TBC reported studies that alluded to the fact that blue light exposure has been linked to disruptive sleep patterns (melatonin regulation), headaches, dry eyes, and reduced attention span. After being in quarantine for only three weeks, I knew that I had to get some.
When I found The Book Club, I fell in love with the Warby Parker-like chic frames that they had to offer. The price range was very affordable considering the health benefits of the product and the fact that it could save you from years of upgrading prescription glasses. If you already have prescription eyewear, not to fear for they also offer differing grades of prescription lenses. Plus, each pair comes with a fabric case to keep your new frames safe.
Lastly, and most importantly, I appreciated the eco-conscious efforts of the company. Their frames are made of 100% recyclable plastic, and their site demonstrates a fairly easy way to recycle so that it is an accessible act to all. Simply pop out the lens and remove the two screws holding the temples in place. Even the chunky chain and accessories that they produce are recyclable! Their frames are packaged in a box in the shape of a novel made from 100% recycled cardboard. The only plastic present was a small window that I assume is for marketing purposes when the product belies stockist shelves.
After a day of use, I would vouch that there is a difference in the way screens affect my eyes. The glasses are said to block 30% of UV light and screens have a warmer hue when these glasses are in use. I wear them when I use my laptop, scroll through Instagram, or even watch Netflix or Hulu series on the projector. I try not to use them for regular activities or when I am outdoors. I also do not recommend using them when reading a regular book, as the glasses may cause more eye strain than reading without them. Since the main goal of the glasses is to reduce exposure to blue light from screen use and studies are still being done around its full effects or repercussions, I choose to wear them for only times during the day that I use screens.
Perhaps the best solution, however, is to reduce screen-time, but in a world where separation from our screens have become difficult, I am not sure how valid that noble solution may be. All I know is that I am lucky to have had the history regarding eyesight that I had. I am blessed to have a profession that does not require staring at multiple screens for eight hours a day, five days a week. And I am grateful for TBC Eyewear, who has my back when it comes to protecting my eyes.
This post is in partnership with TBC Eyewear. All content, thoughts, and opinions are my own. The mug is from East Fork Pottery in Morel. The glasses pictured are Fan of Seen Labels in Sky with a Chunky Chain and Twelve Hungry Bens in Bourbon