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Check Your Font Size, Bro | Here or There

By: Chris O'Brien

I glanced at my older brother’s phone, and it looked like he was reading from a large print Reader’s Digest. Everything was zoomed in. The app buttons were bigger. His text messages—if the standard font size is 12 pt—looked like they were 18, maybe even 20.

Which was surprising to see, because my brother is the only one in my immediate family who doesn’t have some form of glasses or contacts. He has, by all accounts, 20/20 vision. He doesn’t make an annual trip to the eye doctor. Doesn’t know the smell of optometrist breath, which is always like a strange balance of garlic and Altoids. He doesn’t know the feeling of the glaucoma test; sitting in the chair, heart rate accelerating as you prepare for the unpreparable, a little shot of air right on the eyeball. Alright, for our next test, look through this peephole, and I’m gonna shoot your eye with a Nerf gun. 

But he is three years older and with age comes at least one of three things: you lose some hair, gain a few gray hairs, or experience a decrease in vision. Well, he’s still got a full head of non-graying hair, so an attack on the eyes seemed totally reasonable. It happens to everyone.

“Wow, do you have your iPhone set at the 80-year-old display setting?” I asked him like the dirtbag that I am. 

“What?” he replied. And it wasn’t a defensive ‘what,’ it was more like “what are you talking about?”

“Your font size. It’s out of hand.”

“Not at all. See, you gotta give your eyes a break. You’re looking at a computer all day, why would you continue to beat them up on the phone?”

This idea immediately fascinated me. I reflected on my experience with eyesight. In fifth grade, I got back the damning result that I needed glasses. At 11 or 12-years-old, that diagnosis feels like a death sentence. I have to enter middle school on the nerd path?! Any bully will have one guaranteed “four eyes” bullet to use against me. 

So, I fought against it. I rarely wore my glasses in fifth or sixth grade. By seventh grade, my eyes were too bad to continue the resistance. I had no choice but to go full-time glasses. This meant I had the middle school triple threat of glasses, braces, and acne. I grew from 5’2” to 6’2”, had no body fat to my name, was just a tall, gangly, voice cracking goon. They say seventh and eighth grade are your prime ugly years and boy do I agree. I fell down the ugly tree and hit every possible branch. 

But when I started to wear glasses, it’s not as if the lenses healed my eyes. Each year my prescription got a little bit worse. 

I now believe the reason for this is because glasses and contacts are admitting defeat. Your eyeballs’ morale is depleted by this decision. Ah, what’s the point in trying anymore. He doesn’t believe in us. Each year, the eyes try a little bit less, and things get a little bit worse. 

This introduces two Medium Rare alternatives. The first is to do like my brother does. Give your eyes a break when you can. Go with a large font size on your phone. Do the 125 or 150 percent zoom on the computer. When the eyeballs question if they’re becoming washed up, you absolutely deny it. What are you talking about? I don’t think this font size looks bigger at all. You two are doing great! This keeps the morale up and saves your eyes’ energy for when you need them most. They’re not getting better, but they’re probably not getting much worse.

The weakness is just that: a weakness. 

The other approach is to go full out Army boot camp. Go with the smallest font size possible. Send out emails with 8-pt font and make your co-workers question if you are secretly an alien. Take pleasure in reading the fine print of a legal contract. Never relax. Get five hours of sleep a night. If your eyes aren’t veiny and bloodshot, you’re not pushing them hard enough.

This second approach seems ridiculous, but if you take this idea outside of eyesight, it is often the recommended approach for how to attack our weaknesses. 

Turn your weakness into a strength! 
Whatever you hate doing, whatever scares you, do it over and over again until it becomes something you love. 
Face your fears and sign up for work league softball!