Goodbye, Technology

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.

Photo by Flickr user Meghan Wilker.
Photo by Flickr user Meghan Wilker.

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.

The rules:

  • The cleanse will last for two weeks. I am starting today, and will check back in two Mondays from now.
  • Lab time does not count as technology use. I am not going to let this experiment get in the way of my graduate work. I will spend as much time in front of my computer in the lab as necessary, in order to get my work done on the correct schedule.
  • Emails and texts will be dealt with in a time-efficient manner. Even though I do not always want to have my phone or computer on hand, I will respond to all emails and text messages to make it clear that I have not fallen off the face of the earth, and anyone who needs to reach me will be able to do so.
  • I will allow one episode of Netflix per day (with a maximum of one hour). No binge watching allowed, and episodes do not “roll-over” if I don’t watch any TV the day(s) before.
  • Limit checking Facebook and Instagram to twice per day. This one will likely be the hardest for me, because I am almost constantly keeping up with Facebook and Instagram posts through the day. I will check these apps once in the morning and once in the evening, but no more than that.
  • I will not spend any time just browsing on my computer. This means no excessive time on the internet, keeping up with pop-culture articles, watching YouTube videos, or reading blogs (except for the most recent GradLife McGill posts!). No photo editing, doing puzzles, or any other mindless activities using my computer or phone.

What I hope to achieve:

I’m hoping that two weeks with less technology and screen-time exposure will help develop new habits in my life. I want to reduce my sedentary time and increase my physical activity levels to create more balance in my life as a graduate student. I want to test if, at the end of these two weeks, I feel more alert, sleep better, or am more productive during my days by limiting distractions. I will write a follow-up blog post in two weeks to update you on my trials and tribulations of my technology cleanse. Wish me luck!

Have you ever tried a technology cleanse? Do you have any tips to share? I’d love to hear from you!

 

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