Consider the case for optometric digital minimalism
Although I remain a strong advocate for a move to digital thinking and new technologies in optometric patient care,1 I advise colleagues against allowing technology and modern digital life to consume them in a way that leads to exhaustion and isolation. The global pandemic has caused a societal fracture we are only beginning to understand, and I hope it will eventually spark a move toward a simpler, more human way of life.
Fortunately for State University of New York College of Optometry students, clinics have been busy since the summer quarter of 2020 as our faculty, residents, and students have learned to practice in a COVID- 19 world by providing important services to the New York City community. I hope students learn the skills necessary to move the profession into a more patient-centric era, such as allowing patients autonomy and collaborating with fellow ODs for optimal outcomes.
Effects of social media
Although I contend that the modern OD needs to embrace technology to provide more focused patient care, I am concerned that clinicians today have become too distracted by an endless obsession with social media, internet images, and a constant need for connection whether it is over the internet or at association meetings (virtual, hybrid, and live).
I was greatly affected by New York magazine commentator Andrew Sullivan’s September 2016 essay, “I Used to Be a Human Being,” with the powerful subtitle “An endless bombardment of news and gossip and images has rendered us manic information addicts. It broke me. It might break you, too.”2 I fear many clinicians have been broken and need to focus on the significant, meaningful technological tools that allow ODs to improve patient outcomes instead of creating meaningless discussion and clutter.
As Cal Newport in the 2019 book Digital Minimalism: Choosing A Focused Life in a Noisy World3 makes the case for digital minimalism—my philosophy values new technologies for their long-term, significant value over short-term desires for hyper-connection. Let’s look at technology resources that allow us to focus on empathetic, quality patient care.
Can the optometric profession, its leadership, and associations move more quickly into the future and utilize practice patterns that are both evidence and value based? As I tell all my students, COVID- 19 should teach us that empathy belongs at the core of optometric care.
Let’s look at those mobile and technological reference resources necessary for clinicians to remain current and updated. With due respect to colleagues who have spent time creating the social media and internet sites mentioned here, this article will focus on a few clinical and research tools for the modern optometrist. Plus, my colleagues helped me compile a table of mobile technology updates for low vision patients as a follow-up to my January 2019 Optometry Times® article “Innovative Mobile Technology Targets Low Vision.”4
Advances in technology apps and websites allow patients with vision impairment to interact with their environment as the COVID-19 crisis changes society. While Generation Z tends to use social media more for entertainment, millennials tend to rely on it for information sharing.5 The risk of digital clutter, exhaustion, and isolation is real. I think modern clinical ODs should spend much more time using the digital resources listed here and less time on social media.
1. Wong TA. Hackathon series puts focus on digital eye care. Optometry Times®. January 23, 2017. Accessed May 10, 2021. https://www. optometrytimes.com/view/hackathon-series-puts-focus-digital-eye-care
2. Sullivan A. I used to be a human being. New York magazine. September 19, 2016. Accessed May 10, 2021. https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2016/09/ andrew-sullivan-my-distraction-sickness-and-yours. html
3. Newport, C. Digital Minimalism: Choosing A Focused Life In A Noisy World. Penguin Random House LLC; 2019.
4. Wong TA, Sukhija S, Bradley M. Innovative mobile technology targets low vision. Optometry Times®. January 18, 2019. Accessed May 10, 2021. https:// www.optometrytimes.com/view/innovative-mobile-technology-targets-low-vision
5. Durfy L. Millennials vs Generation Z on Social Media. Post Beyond. February 21, 2019. Accessed May 10, 2021. https://www.postbeyond.com/blog/ millennials-genz-social-media/