Laughing Off the Dark Mode Lobby

Lloyd Atkinson
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Laughing Off the Dark Mode Lobby

It appears we’re witnessing a zealous crusade, a fervent push by what I’ve disdainfully dubbed The Dark Mode Lobby. In their gospel, all must be shrouded in darkness, where even a hint of… Light Mode is considered a blasphemous aberration, perhaps even a heretical sin.

In this shadowed dominion, the scant light pixels that survive are allotted only to the most sacred of texts and icons, each one guarded like a precious relic by the Dark Mode Lobby, zealously rationed as if granting light were a privilege bestowed upon the worthy, a beacon of their control in a realm they wish to see forever shrouded in shadow.1


The more comments I receive about my use of light themes, whether that’s in my IDE or on this website, the less inclined I am to add a dark theme button to my site.

If you really want dark mode on this site, you should click this button.


We used to call it “themes”, a term that encapsulated a wide array of design options and user preferences. Now, we have “modes” as if those preferences can simply be boiled down to a binary choice. Sure, the usage of the word “theme” hasn’t vanished, but it’s certainly taken a backseat to the narrow-minded focus on only giving users a choice between light and dark user interfaces.

Windows Themes

What?

I am not opposed to dark mode; I often switch between light and dark mode in my IDE depending on the time of day or my mood. I am vehemently opposed to the vocal minority (the Dark Mode Lobby) taking every opportunity to bash someone over the head for using the “wrong” theme.

The main reason I wrote this post was, quite honestly, frustration over interactions I’ve had either in person or online that continue to happen.

I can’t believe I’ve had to write this post or the following list, but here we are.

  • I hang out on some online software/technology forums (like Discord), and if I post a screenshot of anything while I happen to be using light mode at that moment, more often than not, I will get some ridiculous, overly dramatic response
  • During screen-sharing sessions or in-person interactions, comments admonishing my use of light mode over dark mode have sometimes overshadowed the actual content or purpose of the session
  • In many of these cases, I have received unsolicited advice or remarks suggesting dark mode is the “correct” choice and that I am somehow at fault for not using it and sometimes border on being personal attacks
  • In one former (and brief and very toxic job), a manager and one of his lackeys2 suggested that my usage of light mode was indicative of a lack of professionalism and seriousness about my work as if this choice somehow reflected on my competence
  • It’s hard to take the opinion of anyone seriously when they react like this to light and colours on someone else’s screen: Average Dark Mode fanatic reaction to sunlight

People need to get over themselves and stop giving unsolicited advice and other bullshit about people’s choice of theme. Oh, and because of the inevitable critics of this post, here is some research you might be interested in.

Dark Mode, Myths, and Science

Firstly, I acknowledge that it’s sometimes more comfortable at night to use a dark mode. However, the Dark Mode Lobby insists that dark mode is possibly the next best thing after the discovery of electricity.

  • The Dark Side of Dark Mode - TidBITS

    Vision research has shown that humans prefer dark-on-light. That’s because, in the real world, the background of any scene around you is usually bright. Humans evolved outside, and we are generally active during the daytime and asleep when it’s dark.

    Light Mode provides better performance in focusing of the eye, identifying letters, transcribing letters, text comprehension, reading speed, and proofreading performance, and at least some older studies suggest that using a positive polarity display results in less visual fatigue and increased visual comfort.

  • Dark mode isn’t as good for your eyes as you believe | WIRED UK

    Research published in 2013 by psychologists Cosima Piepenbrock and Susanne Mayr showed that accuracy and performance are better in positive polarity conditions (i.e. black text on a white background). The study involved participants carrying out both visual acuity tests and proofreading tasks. On these tasks, participants both read faster and/or spotted more mistakes in the positive polarity condition.

    The researchers put this down to the fact that when we look at a bright background, our pupils constrict and increase acuity while scanning text. When looking at a black background, the opposite effect occurs, and dilated pupils make it harder to focus on the text.

  • Positive display polarity is advantageous for both younger and older adults - PubMed

Footnotes

  1. The comments I received over this article prove my point: dark-mode zealots are nasty individuals. I shouldn’t be too surprised though, for all their sanctimonious platitudes, Hacker News readers often don’t bother to read the entire article before complaining.

  2. Another name for suck-up, arse kisser, etc.

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