Screen fatigue is a modern health crisis

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Screen fatigue: the tiredness one feels when they stare at their computer screen for hours on end. Many of us are reading e-textbooks or sitting for hours attending classroom discussions on Zoom. Since the beginning of online learning in the past several months, school as we know it has been translated to an online format. Now, more than ever, we are more attached to our electronic devices. One knows the physical aspects of the consequences of looking at a screen for too long — lack of sleep, dark bags under the eyes, etc. I think that screen fatigue is a growing serious problem that can dangerously affect our mental health in the long run. Here are some long-term effects of screen fatigue.  

Screen fatigue can easily lead to burnout. When we condition ourselves to constantly stare at our screens, we are just asking ourselves to mentally burnout. Our brains have to intensely focus when we look at the screen, so when we force ourselves to do it, we can end up spacing out with our bodies shutting down. But we are not functioning robots who can do tasks day in and day out. We have to recognize that we are human beings who need breaks in order to function. It is completely natural to feel burnt out, and it is unfathomable that in our fast-paced society we are stigmatized for having to take breaks. Our work does not value the word “rest” and instead equates work with what is deemed to be “success.” 

People also have difficulty sleeping when they are suffering from screen fatigue. I’ve heard countless tales of my friends and classmates staying up until the wee hours of the night finishing a paper due the next day. But now with everything online, we are confined to our chairs consistently. There is a reason why they say screen time before bed is bad for you — it ruins your sleep cycle. Being on the screen, especially before bed time, heightens the neural activity in the brain which makes it much harder to fall asleep. We all know the consequences of lack of sleep, including difficulty focusing in class, which creates a vicious cycle of having to stay up in order to absorb the material.  

Last, in the long run, one can simply be unmotivated to do any work for the semester. Since we’re mid-way already, I’m sure many students feel unmotivated to continue their work. You may be asking yourself, “What is the point anymore?” As someone who has also experienced a lack of motivation, I have found myself at that point where I realized I spend countless hours in my day working, leaving no time for anything else. Not giving yourself time to do other things in the day that are more enjoyable and stress-relieving may increase your lack of motivation, and you may find that you’re forcing yourself to complete your work to keep up your grades.  

A good tip that will beat screen fatigue is to take frequent breaks. Taking frequent breaks will give your body and brain the space it needs to calm down, process and relax. We have to take breaks in order to feel balanced and energized. One tip to take breaks is to use the Pomodoro technique. The Pomodoro technique is when you set a timer for 25 minutes and you only focus on one task, which promotes increased productivity and doing one thing at a time. When the timer stops, take a five minute break – the process repeats itself until you do four pomodoros, to which you perform a longer break. The key is to break up tasks into smaller portions of time so that breaks can automatically be implemented. Please take breaks, you cannot function without them! As someone who is working on implementing more breaks throughout my day, I can say that your body and brain will thank you later. Hopefully, screen fatigue can decrease in this unprecedented time we are in.  

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