The Blue Light Glasses Phenomenon

Because of the long-term health threats that an upwards trend in blue light exposure poses, many concerned Americans have begun a trend of their own: blue light glasses.

Owen Hite, Reporter

Protecting each other in this novel time has taken many forms. Whether masking up to avoid the spread of disease, or simply shifting schools and gatherings to an online platform to assist in this cause, safety has transformed into more than just covering your cough. What comes with this new era of protection, however, is a trade-off: less time in social settings, and more time with blue light.

Unfortunately, with constant exposure to computers, smartphones, and tablets in an increasingly virtual life, children and adults alike continue to allow harmful levels of blue light into their eyes. Because of the long-term health threats that this upwards trend in blue light exposure poses, many concerned Americans have begun a trend of their own: blue light glasses.

Modeled to be a look-alike of traditional correctional lenses, blue light glasses are only unique in that they offer a way to filter out the blue light emitted from screens, thereby reducing headaches, sore eyes, and even technologically induced blurry vision. While popular vendors such Ambr Eyewear and Zenni have seen upticks in interest for blue light glasses as the world looks to protect its eyes, many consumers are questioning how beneficial the lenses actually are. Senior Cameron Harding believes that the effectiveness may be dependent on the user’s need, and that results may not translate exactly from person to person.

 “I think if you are spending a lot of time in front of a screen and/or have sensitive eyes or are more susceptible to headaches, they are definitely beneficial and worth it. But, if you moderate your screen time, there’s no real reason to need them,” said Harding.

Some consumers buy blue light glasses out of need based upon their own genetics and prior experiences with headaches, as Harding notes, while others may purchase with preventative, self-care goals in mind. Psychology and English teacher Elena Richer explains this alternate approach.

“It’s kind of like: what can you do that’s kind of good for yourself that’s not going to hurt? Especially now, anytime you can do something that helps in any way, your physical health, your mental health…It’s a neutral thing, but it might help,” said Richer. 

Richer, who owns a pair of blue light glasses, observes this same perspective on making small choices to preserve her health, but also acknowledges the overall uncertainty behind the glasses and their benefits. 

“It reminds me of the placebo effect. So the same thing, when [scientists] say you’re going to get some medication and you’re going to feel better, people report feeling better, even if they get the placebo,” said Richer.

While the psychological term Richer refers to with “placebo” typically means a sugar pill or otherwise harmless, non-medicated treatment, it is possible that blue light glasses are society’s wearable version of the placebo; that they operate based on expectations of better health.

Regardless of their helpfulness, blue light glasses have undeniably gained substantial popularity in this COVID-19 era. As for the future however, the growth of this industry will be predicated on further research of effectiveness and an expanding base of customers. While the former is uncertain, the latter is a feat that Harding believes is likely not achievable.

“I think they appeal to a very niche group who are super concerned with their health, and that they will never be something that appeals to mainstream society. They have, in many ways, already reached their max market potential,” said Harding.