When AJ Sibley ’19 began studying at the University, he enrolled in several essay-heavy classes. He soon found himself pulling all-nighters, which meant staring at bright white computer screens for hours.
He was eventually diagnosed with Photophobia, or severe light sensitivity. Today, he cannot look at screens unless they have a feature that blocks out blue light, and he regularly wears sunglasses indoors.
Sibley’s own struggles with eye care was the impetus behind the Undergraduate Student Government referendum he submitted in March.
The referendum, which will be voted on this week from Monday at 12 pm to Wednesday at 12 pm, calls on the University administration to start an annual awareness initiative on the health threats of computer screens and to install campus computers with blue light protection software.
Sibley described the last four years—filled with pain, blurry vision, and innumerable doctor appointments—as a “wake-up call.”
“I was your typical millennial—binging Netflix, wasting hours on social media, all of the classic things that I’m sure everyone’s doing and thinking, this can’t happen to me,” he said.
“I saw a number of times there were students doing the same bad studying habits that led to my [condition],” Sibley added. “Having their screen turned up really brightly, staring at a white Word document, working in the dark, pulling all-nighters—things that are commonplace to a Princeton lifestyle but are actually extremely detrimental to our eyes and to our future productivity.”
According to his referendum’s explanation, extensive computer use, especially in front of blue light, has been linked to severe eye strain, Computer Vision Syndrome, and Meibomian Gland Disorder.
Sibley emphasized that he was frustrated with the University’s lack of attention to the issue, one that he feels will play a major role in students’ lives.
“If it’s Grad school or just a professional career in general, the chances are [that] we are going to be using screens likely more than anything else in our lives, including sleep,” he said. “There are straightforward, simple steps that we could all take to protect our eyes…and I think it’s the responsibility of the University to educate students on how to protect themselves.”
Online voting on the referendum is available to undergraduates on Helios through 4:05 P.M. on Wednesday, April 17.