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Quitting Facebook might make you happier, but possibly less informed about the news

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New US research has found that quitting Facebook can help improve mental health, although users may find that they are less in the know when it comes to current affairs.

Carried out by researchers at Stanford University and New York University, the new study looked at 2,844 people who reported spending an hour a day on Facebook.

Half of the participants were asked to deactivate their Facebook accounts for a period of four weeks, and were paid around $100 to do so.

During the four weeks the researchers checked the accounts to see if anyone was cheating, and monitored how the participants were feeling.

The findings, which can be found published online, showed that the participants who quit Facebook did report feeling happier, and that quitting the social media site also helped them reduce their online activity overall. They also increased their time spent doing offline activities such as socializing with family and friends.

Participants also spent less time consuming news; after presenting the participants with statements about recent news, as reported by major news outlets, and asking them to say whether the statements were true, false, or if they were unsure, the researchers found that those who quit Facebook were more likely to get the answer wrong, or report being unsure about the answer, than those who hadn’t deactivated their accounts.

When presented with statements about fake news, participants who quit Facebook were more likely to say that they were unsure about the answer, rather than say that the statement was false. The researchers suggest that although quitting Facebook can reduce exposure to fake news, as it is circulated on the social media site, participants may be unsure about which news is false as Facebook can also help provide the correct information, which helps users identify fake news.

“Previous research mostly looked at correlation: How much do you use Facebook and how depressed are you?” commented study author professor Hunt Allcott. “These studies show that people who use Facebook more are more depressed, but the problem is correlation doesn’t create causation. We didn’t know if Facebook was making people depressed or depressed people were retreating into Facebook.” 

“The great majority of the Treatment group agreed that deactivation was good for them, but they were also more likely to think that people would miss Facebook if they used it less,” added the authors. “Deactivation caused small but significant improvements in well-being, and in particular on self-reported happiness, life satisfaction, depression, and anxiety. Effects on subjective well-being as measured by responses to brief daily text messages are positive but not significant.”

However, the researchers also add that the findings should be interpreted with caution, explaining that the “effects could differ with the duration or scale of deactivation. A longer period without Facebook might have less impact on news knowledge as people find alternative news sources, and either more or less impact on subjective well-being.” 

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More groups join in support of women in STEM program at Carleton

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OTTAWA — Major companies and government partners are lending their support to Carleton University’s newly established Women in Engineering and Information Technology Program.

The list of supporters includes Mississauga-based construction company EllisDon.

The latest to announce their support for the program also include BlackBerry QNX, CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority), Ericsson, Nokia, Solace, Trend Micro, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CGI, Gastops, Leonardo DRS, Lockheed Martin Canada, Amdocs and Ross.

The program is officially set to launch this September.

It is being led by Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design with the goal of establishing meaningful partnerships in support of women in STEM.  

The program will host events for women students to build relationships with industry and government partners, create mentorship opportunities, as well as establish a special fund to support allies at Carleton in meeting equity, diversity and inclusion goals.

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VR tech to revolutionize commercial driver training

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Serious Labs seems to have found a way from tragedy to triumph? The Edmonton-based firm designs and manufactures virtual reality simulators to standardize training programs for operators of heavy equipment such as aerial lifts, cranes, forklifts, and commercial trucks. These simulators enable operators to acquire and practice operational skills for the job safety and efficiency in a risk-free virtual environment so they can work more safely and efficiently.

The 2018 Humboldt bus catastrophe sent shock waves across the industry. The tragedy highlighted the need for standardized commercial driver training and testing. It also contributed to the acceleration of the federal government implementing a Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) program for Class 1 & 2 drivers currently being adopted across Canada. MELT is a much more rigorous standard that promotes safety and in-depth practice for new drivers.

Enter Serious Labs. By proposing to harness the power of virtual reality (VR), Serious Labs has earned considerable funding to develop a VR commercial truck driving simulator.

The Government of Alberta has awarded $1 million, and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) is contributing an additional $2 million for the simulator development. Commercial deployment is estimated to begin in 2024, with the simulator to be made available across Canada and the United States, and with the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) helping to provide simulator tests to certify that driver trainees have attained the appropriate standard. West Tech Report recently took the opportunity to chat with Serious Labs CEO, Jim Colvin, about the environmental and labour benefits of VR Driver Training, as well as the unique way that Colvin went from angel investor to CEO of the company.

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Next-Gen Tech Company Pops on New Cover Detection Test

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While the world comes out of the initial stages of the pandemic, COVID-19 will be continue to be a threat for some time to come. Companies, such as Zen Graphene, are working on ways to detect the virus and its variants and are on the forefronts of technology.

Nanotechnology firm ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. (TSX-Venture:ZEN) (OTCPK:ZENYF), is working to develop technology to help detect the COVID-19 virus and its variants. The firm signed an exclusive agreement with McMaster University to be the global commercializing partner for a newly developed aptamer-based, SARS-CoV-2 rapid detection technology.

This patent-pending technology uses clinical samples from patients and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The test is considered extremely accurate, scalable, saliva-based, affordable, and provides results in under 10 minutes.

Shares were trading up over 5% to $3.07 in early afternoon trade.

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