Wait, what? Netflix? On a screen? When I’m so sensitive? Yes. It can be done, even if looking at a screen is otherwise like putting your head into a vice and scraping it with sandpaper.
But ‘how’, you ask? Desperate times call for desperate (and creative) measures.
There are a few ways to go about this and it depends on the type of device you plan to watch Netflix on. We recommend portable devices, like a phone, tablet or laptop, though a fixed device like a desktop computer while less flexible can also be used.
Starting Small with a Portable Device
If your device of choice is portable, like a phone, laptop or tablet, then you will be using distance to relieve your visual processing load. First step: take your device and place it as far away from where you will be sitting, as you can. This might seem absurd but bear with me.
Consider using the furthest corner of the room you’re sitting in, but in any case to start it should be at least 15 feet (4.5 meters) from where you plan on watching it. The size of the display should appear comically small from that distance – almost like the size of a postage stamp.
This distance works to relieve visual processing demands in a few ways. First, it reduces the proportion of your field of view that is occupied by the display. Almost anyone can tolerate a video the equivalent size of a postage stamp.
Second, it takes pressure off of your convergence systems. Your convergence system combines images from both of your eyes into something you perceive as a single image. To see how this works (or doesn’t work…) look at something up close by first closing one eye and then the other. You will notice that for objects nearer to you the difference between what you see out of your left and right eyes are more extreme than objects at distance, and is therefore more taxing for your brain to combine into a single image.
Thirdly, and somewhat overlapping with the small portion of the field of view concept, is that your eyes don’t need to move much when the display occupies such a small area of your vision. This alone can be quite helpful for a number of reasons, one of which is putting less load on your magnocellular visual pathways responsible for your peripheral vision. In other words, the more you move your eyes to different parts of the screen your brain also processes the objects and clutter nearby within your peripheral vision that also in effect, move. This is also why the area surrounding the display should be de-cluttered, unlike the demonstration photo above.
What is nearby your display is nearly as important as what is on the display
The second step with this method is preparing the room where you will be watching your small device from afar. The room should be illuminated with as much natural light as you can tolerate. If natural light isn’t available, then consider old-school incandescent or halogen bulbs. Any such light sources should originate from behind you and should illuminate the room, including the portion of the room your device is located. Not only is some light good for you, but it also constricts your pupils (Nature’s sunglasses) to help further reduce the amount of light emitted from the display that actually reaches your retinas.
Once you are all set up you may need to adjust the brightness of your device to be a bit darker than the area in which it was placed. That might change depending on the time of day.
If you can tolerate this, then experiment with bringing the device closer to you in small increments.
Fixed-Location Devices, like a desktop computer
If your device is in a fixed location, like a desktop computer, then there are still adjustments available to help.
First, put as much distance as you can between you and the computer display. This may mean moving your chair back, or pushing the computer display further back on your desk, or both. Doing so reduces the convergence demands as previously described.
Second, and very importantly, arrange the contents of your display appropriately. Get rid of your desktop wallpaper and replace it with a simple solid black color. Clear your desktop of the clutter of icons that have probably been accumulating for years. Then, open Netflix with your browser and resize the browser to a very small rectangle in the middle of your computer display.
The brightness of your computer display should be a bit darker than the surrounding room, which you should illuminate with as much natural light as you can tolerate. As the brightness of the room changes throughout the day, so too should the brightness level of your display be adjusted.
The net effect of these adjustments is that your convergence system will be less taxed (though still more than placing the display a good distance away from you), the small resized window will greatly reduce the proportion of your field of view occupied by what you are watching, thereby reducing visual load and reducing eye movements.
Use these strategies in moderation
As with anything, these strategies should be used in moderation to keep you cognitively engaged and out of the insane asylum. Don’t sit all day looking as something the size of a postage stamp.
As your condition improves your reliance on these strategies should decrease. Furthermore, challenge yourself by bringing the portable device closer to you, or increase the size of the small window on your computer.
As always, experiment to find out what works best for you.