Hello, Technology

Photo by @gradlifemcgill instagrammer @kipunsam.daily

Photo by @gradlifemcgill instagrammer @kipunsam.daily

So, it’s over. I did a two-week technology cleanse, and learned a lot about myself and my surroundings. I was able to achieve most of my goals, or at least move in the right direction toward decreasing my overall screen time.

What I did:

I was able to limit my social media use through the day, and I became much more mindful of when I was checking my phone and how much time I was spending on it. I didn’t watch even one episode of Netflix, which means I did even better than what I had planned for the two weeks. Instead, I found other activities to fill my time. I did Sudoku puzzles, printed and completed crosswords, and spent time filling in my colouring book – great for relaxation! I also increased my physical activity levels, because every morning instead of sitting on my computer or phone before heading into the lab, I was able to do a quick workout or yoga session. That made me much more productive during the day, which was one of my main goals.

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Goodbye, Technology

Photo by Flickr user Meghan Wilker.

Photo by Flickr user Meghan Wilker.

Recently, I’ve realized how much time I spend looking at screens. I spend all day in the lab typing word documents, running stats, processing data – all on a computer. Then, I come home and watch Netflix, check Facebook and Instagram, and listen to music – all on a computer or phone. By the time I go to bed, I’d estimate that I would have accumulated over 12 hours of screen time on the average day.

That number seems outrageous to me. Over 50% of my life is spent looking at a screen. While you can’t argue the enormous benefits technology provides to our daily lives, especially in grad school, including communication with other people, efficiency in our tasks, and increasing our productivity levels when used wisely, you have to wonder if it’s sometimes necessary to draw the line somewhere.

The shocking part is that screen time is usually directly related to sedentary time, or time during which you are completely motionless. Sedentary time has been found to contribute to chronic health in the exact opposite way than physical activity levels (i.e. excessive sedentary time reduces overall health and well-being). I won’t turn this into a post preaching the benefits of physical activity (although exercise is very important for your mental and physical health!), but I will say that I’ve decided it’s time for me to reduce my screen (and consequently sedentary) time.

Hence, I’m doing a technology cleanse.

I already foresee obstacles in this challenge, but I want to be aware of them and deal with them as they come. I know that I cannot completely eliminate technology from my life, as it is such a vital part of my daily functioning with my thesis work, communicating with my friends, family, and supervisor, and even how I spend my leisure time. However, I want to set some ground rules to work around these barriers and manage how I use technology in the short term.

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Your Research in the Cloud

Cloud-based hosting services have been around for a while, but with the launch of Dropbox-like desktop clients of both Google Drive and Microsoft SkyDrive this week, it appears to be the hot topic to be discussing now.

My goal here is not to discuss the pros and cons of each. There are plenty of thorough comparisons out there. Instead, as fast as the hype about all the cool things came, the discussion is now quickly shifting towards ill-defined terms of service that can jeopardize the confidentiality of your data. What does it mean in terms of storing your research data?

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Out of reach

I was walking right outside of the Milton Gates near my lab the other evening. There was a young lady in a motorized wheelchair strumming down the sidewalk in the other direction past me. By the time I thought twice about the fact that the sidewalk was blocked off farther down from her because of utility repairs, the girl had already saw the dead end and had to turn around. The nearest alternate sidewalk ramp to cross the street was a good chunk of concrete away from us. And, I couldn’t help wondering what it must be like having to navigate the inaccessible streets of Montreal – complete with construction zones and blocked off sidewalks without any warning or suggested bypass route.

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