Personal Data Reflections

Thinking about Personal Data

Like many others in the course, I’ve been confined to a radius that I can explore on foot (or my bike, if I’m feeling adventurous!). I spend the majority of my time in my apartment either working from home, or trying to stay busy by reading, watching a show, cooking, or talking to family. All of these activities require me to use either my computer, tv, or phone. You may be asking, why is she using her phone when she cooks?? I’m not a very talented chef, so inspiration as well as instructions are crucial to my success in the kitchen. I usually find both through my Pinterest app on my phone.

With the ability to use a technology to track personal data, I decided it would be an interesting idea to really dig deep into my screen time. Screen time has long been a feature on iOS, but I’ve not actually sat down to think it about it besides the occasional – ‘oh wow, I spent 35% more time on my phone this week!?!?’

When looking into screen time, you can see a weekly as well as a daily overview. Both overview includes screen time in minutes, number of pickups, and notifications. The weekly overview tracks Sunday through Saturday.

The statistics are as follows:

  • Daily average usage – 2 hours 49 minutes
  • Total Screen time – 19 hours 45 minutes
    • This was up 11% from the previous week
  • Time breakdown by type of app:
    • Social – 8 hours 34 minutes
    • Health & Fitness – 2 hours 1 minute
    • Productivity & Finance – 1 hour 21 minutes
  • 5 Most used applications, ranked most to least:
    • Instagram
    • SWEAT
    • Chrome
    • WhatsApp
    • Email
  • Average daily pickups – 78 times per day
    • Most pickups on Tuesday
  • Average daily notifications – 99 per day
    • Most notifications on Wednesday


The good:

  • I spent two hours working out.
    • Great reminder that even though I feel like a couch potato, I did do something good for me this week.
  • Sundays are my ‘phone’ quiet day.
    • Most of the time, I leave my phone in another room unconsciously on Sundays. I tend to do most of my house chores on Sundays and will use Alexa to play music. Because I don’t hear the notifications, or have it close, I don’t use it as much.
  • I’m very interested in my notifications specific to my email, messaging apps and Instagram… not the news apps or Fitbit notifications as I had thought.

The bad:

  • I spend way too much time on Instagram.
    • This may be a new goal of mine over the next few weeks – to turn off notifications on this app and try to remind myself that I can be doing something else to fill the time, like reading.
  • I get a ridiculous amount of emails.
    • Note – the phone that I was tracking this on was my personal phone and not my work phone. So not a single one of the over 220+ emails that I got over the week was a work email… they were mostly newsletters and sale emails.
  • Picking up my phone on average 78 times makes me feel somewhat embarrassed to see.
    • I am someone who doesn’t think they are dependent on their phone, but this says otherwise.

Reflecting on the article by Eynon (2015), I can see now how tracking specific data points could impact (positively or negatively) the person trying to understand the data on the other side. Looking at my own personal data, there were things that surprised me and others that I was embarrassed to admit. If a student is in a similar situation, it could similarly impact their behavior and shape how they behave in the future.

For certain data points, educators and parents are sure to want to reinforce positive trends and prevent negative ones. Either way, the question remains whether this tracking positively influences the students sense of self, their development, and creativity. In thinking about my own personal data, I want to limit the time that I spend on Instagram, but in many ways it is also a source of positivity and laughter during a time when this is scarce. Feeling embarrassed about the time spent will now impact how I act in the future.

Overall, this exercise was a great self reflection on where I spend my lockdown life time. Over the next few weeks, this is definitely something I’ll come back to, especially to see if I’ve managed to limit my Instagram time.

Eynon, R. 2015. The quantified self for learning: critical questions for education, Learning, Media and Technology, 40:4, pp.407-411, DOI: 10.1080/17439884.2015.1100797