On a recent morning, I indulged one of my worst habits—checking Twitter on my phone immediately upon waking up. When I turned the screen off, I was alarmed to discover that I could no longer see out of my right eye. I picked up my phone again, this time in a panic, to Google my symptoms, and quickly learned that I had experienced what medical researchers have called “transient smartphone blindness
.” It can occur when you look at a bright screen while lying down with only one eye open. It’s one of many effects
that constant engagement with screens could be having on our eyes, which together produce anxiety
about the negative physical effects of contemporary technologies.
Before smartphones and handheld devices, that anxiety was directed at televisions. From the time of their commercialization, people worried about the potential harms of the device: the harms of placing their face close to the screen, of watching for many hours at a time, of the appliance’s position at the center of domestic life. People still worry about spending too much time in front of a television (much of the recent focus has been on the effects on children and weight gain). Samsung even warned of possible health risks
from watching its 3-D TVs—pregnant women and the elderly were advised not to watch 3-D sets at all.