Dr. Catherine Jenkins on Digital Hygiene and 'Junk Sleep'

Photo credit: Urantian Sojourn

ProCom instructor Dr. Catherine Jenkins’ research explores the impact of medical imaging technologies on patient-physician communication, and the medicalization of comic book superheroes. As an instructor and scholar she is concerned with the power of digital sociality, which has tremendous capacity both for good and, if used without a certain mindfulness, for harm.

When discussing digital sociality with second-year Social Work and Occupational Health students in CMN100, Jenkins emphasizes privilege. “We’re very privileged in terms of our interconnectedness,” Jenkins explains. “Even in Canada – just five years ago, most of my students at the First Nations Technical Institute didn’t have internet access. Stats Canada doesn’t even track data usage in the Territories because it’s so low. We can make lots of assumptions about digital access, which we need to be careful about.”

“In CMN279 we discuss the potential impact of social media messages and a message’s potential to disseminate wildly beyond the control of the sender,” Jenkins explains, citing an infamous career-ending Tweet students explore as a case study. Throughout her courses, Jenkins instills in students the profound need for accuracy and correctness as professional practitioners within these platforms. She also describes a number of tech-related initiatives that actively improve lives, such as psychologist-developed apps like Self-help Anxiety Management (SAM) or MindTools Depression Aid for monitoring and modifying anxious or depressive moods.

 “Before class I like seeing students interacting with each other, rather than texting,” Jenkins shares. Opportunities – which can be as productive as they may be uncomfortable – to engage with others in the classroom and build meaningful connections may be missed otherwise.

Jenkins goes on to emphasize the idea that while we're interacting with digital technologies, we are analogue entities: “Our biology has requirements that can't be ignored,” she states. “When we try to ignore our biological demands, we risk our physical and/or psycho-emotional health.”

Going back to the ProCom angle, Jenkins adds, “In CMN 313: Organizational Problem Solving and Report Writing, students spend the whole term focusing on one specific organizational problem, researching and analyzing it, and then coming up with feasible recommendations for resolution. The great thing about this module is that students have the luxury of time, and I encourage them to get deeply involved in an issue. In some cases, students have actually forwarded their final reports to appropriate audiences to try and create a real-world impact.”

In many classes Jenkins urges students to use social tech mindfully. “Anyone can reach you anytime,” she explains, suggesting the danger of developing a state of hypervigilance, an anxiety produced by always being on call. “Take a break, go for a walk, or have some tea with a friend,” she says. “Ensure you get good sleep, and charge your phone in the living room instead of by your bed. Take care of yourself; the world can wait.”