Reading online hurts people’s eyes, bodies, brains
I don’t know about you, but one of my goals in life is to never write anything that makes my readers throw up, resign or forget where they parked their car.
But that’s actually possible when writing for the web.
That’s because screen reading hurts your web visitors’ eyes, backs and brains.
1. Screen reading hurts readers’ bodies.
Americans are experiencing more back, neck and shoulder problems because of their mobile devices, according to the American Chiropractic Association.
Plus, web visitors suffer insomnia and body clock confusion from screen reading at night, according to Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. (Another one of my goals in life is to never write anything that makes my readers feel as if they’ve just stumbled off of a flight from Boston to Bhutan.)
Screen reading also causes headaches, muscle degeneration and nausea, according to the American Cancer Society and The Mayo Clinic.
So, yes, your web content can make your readers throw up.
2. Screen reading hurts readers’ eyes.
Reading on the screen is hard for a simple reason: Our eyes weren’t made to stare at little beige boxes all day.
Some 50% to 90% of people who work on computer screens have at least some symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome, according to WebMD. Those symptoms include:
- Sore or irritated eyes
- Trouble focusing
- Dry or watery eyes
- Blurred or double vision
- Sensitivity to light
Cases of screen sightedness have increased by 35% since smartphones were introduced in the 1990s.
“I’ve had people come to our clinic saying they were going to quit their jobs because they couldn’t take it,” says David Grisham, optometry professor, University of California at Berkeley.
Not exactly the purpose of our intranet, is it?
So, yes, your web content can make your readers resign.
3. Screen reading hurts readers’ brains.
But as writers, our biggest problem is this: Screen reading hurts your brain.
Constant problem solving (To click or not to click?) plus divided attention (You’ve got mail) lead to cognitive overload.
And cognitive overload, according to Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brain, leads us to lose the ability to think and reason.
In fact, a study by the Institute of Psychiatry at the University of London showed that online multitasking temporarily lowers your IQ more than smoking marijuana does. (And, from what I’ve read, is not nearly as entertaining a way to get stupid.)
“Try reading a book while doing a crossword puzzle,” writes Carr in The Shallows. “That’s the intellectual environment of the Internet.”
So, yes, your web content can make your readers forget where they parked the car.
Is your web content a pain in the butt? A site for sore eyes? How can you write web content that makes readers click instead of gag?
How can you reach mobile readers?
More than half of your audience members now receive your emails, visit your web pages and engage with your social media channels via their mobile devices, not their laptops.
Problem is, people spend half as long looking at web pages on their mobile devices than they do on their desktops. They read 20% to 30% slower online. And it’s 48% harder to understand information on a smartphone than a laptop.
In this environment, how can you reach readers online?
Learn how to overcome the obstacles of reading on the small screen at Reach Readers Online — our web-writing workshop starting June 20. You’ll master a four-part system for getting the word out on mobile devices.
Save up to $100 with our group discounts.