December 21st often marks what is commonly referred to in the West as the beginning of winter, or in astronomical terms: the winter solstice. Meanwhile, in Asia – the winter solstice (or Toji in Japanese) marks a certain midway point between winter and summer; in effect becoming more of a celebration of the eventual return of light. Whichever way you look at it, the solstice serves as a reminder to embrace the darkness on the longest night of the year and look forward to brighter days ahead.
Interestingly, this comes at a time when a certain technological darkness has been infiltrating light’s domain by way of user experience and design, a.k.a. Dark-mode. In the age of the smartphone, there are few limits on how much time we spend on our screens. Now that you can get weekly reports on your average mobile habits, the next step is to consider how you are viewing your favorite device. Recently, Apple followed in their competition’s footsteps and finally launched dark-mode support in the latest Mac OS Mojave update, allowing users and their eyes a break from the endless river of white pixels that dominate most operating systems. If you’re on Windows 10, you’ve long had dark-mode support, but if you’re like many, you’ve never tried it.
However, the device you probably use the most at night (when your eyes are most sensitive to harsh diodes) is your smartphone or tablet. In comparison to traditional televisions and computer monitors, we hold these devices painfully close at times, often while trying to read lots of small text. The truth is that this is rough on the retina, and while various night-modes that change the color temperature of your screen do help, a consistent dark theme that carries across apps on mobile has been historically hard to find.
Apple for instance recently snuck in what feels like a beta test of ‘smart-invert’ mode, deeply hidden in the Accessibility settings. While a good idea and probably very beneficial for individuals with certain visual conditions, it doesn’t have the feel of a well-tested and developed Apple feature and certainly not a traditional dark-mode skin. Android’s latest Pie release sports a slick dark-mode function that can not only save your eyes for a beautiful sunrise, but can also help save battery life. Similarly, OnePlus’s latest iteration of their custom Oxygen OS rolled out with customizable dark theme settings, as well as ‘reading-mode’, to help your smartphone look a little more like an original Kindle than ever before when reading e-books or long articles.
Whatever your device, know there are options to help you limit unnecessary over-exposure to your eyes. Who knows, maybe it will free up your senses just enough to notice something you maybe can’t capture, but will never forget.