Motion Sickness From Reading and Scrolling Text

Motion Sickness From Reading and Scrolling Text

Motion Sickness from Scrolling Text and Stuff on the Computer. Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) sort of. Yes, I used to have this problem, I believe. For quite a long time. But I eventually fixed it. My solutions may or may not work for you. But in this article, I will tell you what I experienced and what I did.

I had been feeling really sick after reading text on the computer. Dizzy sick. And it was not all the time. Just most of the time. Sometimes, it was OK. But several years ago, I did not have this problem. What changed? I narrowed things down to the activities when I would get sick: browsing the web, reading articles, wikipedia, etc. Static books are OK. Watching movies, playing games (mostly retro) will also be OK for me. This was a serious problem. But why did it happen? I kept asking myself.

One day, I was doing some JQuery scrolling animation for a client. After a few tests, I was sick as hell. Then it hit me. It was the scrolling. I was not reading a lot of text. I was just looking at the scrolling motion and I was the sickest at that time!

But then come to think of it, that was not the first time I encountered scrolling stuff. I have played lots of games and used lots of interfaces that had smooth scrolling panels. And I was OK. So why was that able to sicken me? I then thought of several other instances that made me sick and dizzy. One time when I was playing a 3D PS2 game that rotated the game world a lot. Another time was when I was playing a Unity game. And another was when I was playing an HTML5 2D browser game... So it should not be the 3D rotations. All those had one thing in common. A very high refresh rate. Near 60fps. The older games I played, with 30fps, didn't make me sick at all. Even in 3D. For most people, high fps means a good experience and less headache. But I found that I cannot stand high FPS. It will give me this kind of motion sickness! I tried to test this out with the TESTUFO website. I immediately preferred the blurry non-smooth floating UFO compared to the 60fps one! The smooth one looks very nice, no doubt, but I just will feel that nausea feeling after looking at it for a short while.

So is high fps smooth movement the culprit of my sick feeling after reading text due to smooth motion sickness? I can say with 80% probability that it is! I thought to myself: I will get sick reading articles on the web because I will have to scroll up and down. Browsers are now having a smooth refresh rate (contemporary browsers 60fps or higher, I checked) so their scrolling motions are 60fps smooth! I didn't feel sick years ago (around 2007), reading text in browsers. Years ago, browsers didn't really do a lot of smooth scrolling, and even if they did, it wasn't 60fps. I tried to do an experiment. Pasted a ton of text in MS Word (old version) and tried reading it with the laggy scrolling. No motion sickness. So I disabled smooth scrolling in my main browsers and voila! Problem solved! I can read tons of text with no problem. No dizziness. No nausea.

To disable smooth scrolling on Chrome, you need to go to chrome://flags (a browser relaunch is needed). For Firefox, Options > Advanced.

But there is one more puzzle. I've played lots of PS2 games that supposedly have 60fps, and with no problem. After some trial and error, I found that 60fps motion sickness seems related to the distance from the screen. The motion sickness is reduced if viewed from far. So I was playing those games from quite far away. And only when the screen has intense movements like swinging, rotations and panning, would I get sick. But if the screen is viewed close up (reading text), I would get sick even with slight scrolling movements. I can't sit too far from the screen if the text is small...

I am not sure if this problem and solution is just me or for a few people or for a lot of people. But if you feel sick after reading stuff on the web, feel free to try out what I did. Disable smooth scrolling for a while. See if it makes a difference. Thank you for reading!
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From the Josh Tam Universe