Digital Devices Are Great – But At What Cost To Our Eyes?

Like many lucky people I received an iPad for Christmas.

Regular readers of this blog will know that, although not quite falling into the “technologically challenged”category, I am still lagging a bit behind the Apple generation –my smart phone is just three months old which means I am still on a voyage of iPhone discovery.

In the meantime, I must confess that I have become one of those annoying people who loves to compare notes with fellow iPhone users over drinks and meals – much to the annoyance of friends and family who are not yet members of this not very exclusive club.

Watching Steve Jobs introduce his latest “baby” back in January last year, I wasn’t aware that I wanted (and was pretty certain that I didn’t need) an iPad. But wouldn’t it be just great to have one anyway. What fun to read a newspaper or flip the pages of a book – even my rather mundane photo collection looks amazing when watched in “origami” slide show format with an appropriate musical backing track.

Some great gadgets

And while I am happily playing with my new toy, I read in my “virtual” newspaper that Amazon’s Kindle beat all sales records over the holiday period. The electronic reader sold an estimated eight million units in Britain and the US during 2010 becoming Amazon’s most popular product of all time.

The device which – like the iPad- allows users to download and read digital copies of books and newspapers has proved to be a true rival to printed books.

There’s no doubt that we have become dependent on these digital devices to survive professionally and personally and that the amount of time we will spend with our gadgets is set to increase.

I put my unscientific theory to the test on a recent train journey from London to Norfolk. After walking the entire length of the train I observed that at least half the passengers were using some sort of screen whether for work (sending emails, reading reports etc) or for playing games or watching videos.  Nearly everyone else was either reading or doing crosswords or puzzles – only a very few people enjoyed the luxury of doing nothing – relaxing, dozing, chatting or gazing dreamily at the countryside.

It occurred to me that, with this new “connected” lifestyle, we expect more and more effort from two devices that we take for granted – our eyes.

What effect is this extra effort having on our most precious possessions of all? And is there any way we can help our vision survive the extra workload involved in keeping us connected?

On Thursday I will have five tips for keeping our eyes fresh and focused in a digital world.