I’m tall, so every day is a lesson in how the world wasn’t built for me. Cars and planes, tables and chairs, beds and blankets — everything is just ever-so-slightly too small to be comfortable.
When it comes to the standard ergonomics of computer monitors, though, our world is stuck in the 90s. The oft-quoted line about where to position your computer monitor is something like “align the top of the screen with eye level, and look down.” And that’s good advice, but only if you’re still using the fifteen-inch CRT that came with your 1995 beige-box PC.
Generally, a computer monitor should be positioned no closer than two feet from your eyes — the farther, the better, as long as you can still read comfortably. But properly positioning the monitor relies on being conscious of its size and contents, and typically, the larger your monitor, the less true that previously mentioned oft-quoted line is.
I tend to sit three or more feet away from my monitor, and reposition it multiple times throughout a long day.
If you don’t have an ergonomic VESA-capable monitor mount, I highly recommend you get one, because they allow you to position and reposition your monitor effortlessly. After a solid state drive, a monitor mount is the best peripheral upgrade you can get.
In general terms, you should center the area of screen you intend to focus on most within a few degrees of the center of your vision.
If you’re reading documents, or web browsing, don’t align your eyes with title bars; align your eyes with wherever it is you find yourself naturally reading from as you scroll — for me, it’s the uppermost line or two of the browser window, found in the upper half of the screen, so I position my monitor to align with my eyes about twenty percent down the screen while reading.
If you’re playing first-person games, don’t align your vision with the in-game sky at the top of your screen; align your vision with the crosshair or the middle of the screen.
Just center your eyes with whatever it is you’re focusing on. The goal is to use, and therefore possibly strain, as few muscles as possible.
And if your eyes feel dry or scratchy while using a computer, go look at something else for a while.
Or if you have trouble sleeping after using a computer all night, don’t use it an hour before bed. Some people use a program called “f.lux” to cast their screens a cooler, more-amber color temperature in the evening, but I don’t. I prefer to dim my screen.
I keep my screen brightness as low as what’s tolerable if I’m not doing anything color sensitive. On most Macs, that is easy — F1 and F2 on the keyboard control brightness. On PCs, that typically means using an on-screen menu embedded in the monitor — luckily for me, 0% Brightness on my monitor works comfortably at all hours, so I rarely change it.
Everyone should have a nice bed, all nerds should have nice chairs and monitor mounts, and anyone who wears glasses should have nice glasses. Anything you use for large amounts of time should be as top of the line as you can afford; it really improves your quality of life.