From Flickr user Matt Hurst, Creative Commons

We love technology and social media here at GradHacker. It is a great way to connect to the world, to network in innovative ways, and to learn about what is currently going on in your discipline. We can create, edit and format every inch of our dissertation online, allowing our committee to dynamically edit on Google Docs or directly attach to our Zotero bibliographies. I would even go so far as to say that my smart phone is the most important grad school tool that I own. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been glad that I can get my Gmail, check my Dropbox or Tweet. My iPhone is like my personal Tinkerbell or Navi, constantly helping me get to the right place and alert me of everything that is going on.

But this is also the problem… I can always be reached, I can always be checking my email, I can always be transferring files, or reading journal articles. On an average day I will wake up and immediately check my email. I usually begin tweeting around 8am either for GradHacker or my website, Bones Don’t Lie. Then I head to my job (which I’ve blogged about the night before) and tweet about my location. I take photos with my phone and post them online throughout the work day. If we go somewhere for lunch I’ll use Foursquare to check in. When I’m done for the day I’ll write everything up in a Google doc. When I’m finally home for the day and done with work I will check Facebook, some nights I Skype my parents or brother, and then I’ll watch Hulu. I can be constantly reached through my phone, through Facebook chat, Gmail chat, Skype, Twitter or text messaging.

It means that I’m never truly off. I’m always able to contact or be contacted. Both the bane and boon of the technological grad student life.

That is why it is so important to shut off sometimes. Always being able to check our work email or be contacted means that we never fully relax. Try turning off more; it will not only make you more relaxed but less dependent on your phone.

1. Be in the moment: When you’re with other people socializing don’t be continually checking your phone. Enjoy the company and be there. Don’t worry about your Draw Something or Words With Friends game. If you do want to check in on Foursquare or need to reply to a text, do it quickly and discreetly. You’ll enjoy the company more if you are fully engaged.

2. Tune out long before bed: Watching tv or being on the computer stimulates your brain and prevents you from sleeping. Try to tune out an hour before bed. Read a book instead. It gives your brain a chance to relax and prepare for bed. I guarantee that you’ll fall asleep faster and sleep better. Also, turn your phone to silent or leave it outside the bedroom. Text and tweet alerts will disturb your sleep even if you don’t fully wake up.

3. Take time away: Remember when you were a kid and you’d run off to play outside with friends. No worries about getting a phone call about your work, no fear that you might be missing something on Twitter, and no chance for interrupting messages. Try to do that once in a while. Leave your phone in the car if you’re going on a hike. Don’t take the phone to the gym. Take a weekend off from technology.

It will feel weird, you’ll definitely feel phantom vibrations and there may be some anxiety at first. Don’t panic. Give it a chance. I promise you’ll enjoy every moment without a little better.

Or maybe I’m wrong? What do you think about the benefits of turning off?


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