The University of Science and Technology at Harrisburg last week announced that they would ban Facebook, Twitter and other social media access for a one week period. There goal? To understand how students, faculty and staff would react to the move. In other words, would students lose their minds. While the idea was interesting, most students decided to take no part in the experiement.
According to Eric Darr, the provost who created the experiment, only 10% – 15% of students have chosen to participate in the experiment and those numbers are based off his own inconclusive research. The truth of the matter is, with cell phones, off campus computers that are not connected to the schools administrative restrictions and other means of connecting to the internet, there was simply no way for the program to work as hopes. As Jimmy Fallon put it “We all have smartphones, dumbass.” It should also be mentioned that Harrisburg is “non-residential” which means students live off campus where they can access the internet at will, leaving only classroom and on-campus time restricted.
According to USAToday, Nationwide, 92% of students log into Facebook and spend an average of 147 minutes there per week.
While students may not have “quit cold turkey” like Darr was hoping to observe, there may be an even more interesting underlying set of observations, for example, students walked up to three blocks just to log into Facebook from a lobby at a nearby hotel, while other students tried to hack the campus network to get around administrator bans. Observing how students will go to great lengths to stay connected could say as much about their social media habits as observing how they interact when disconnected from their electronic social networks.
Darr told USAToday that the program would be a success if even a handful of students quit Twitter and Facebook for a week, considering the amount of conversation his idea has created.
While the “spirit” of the program may have been directed with good intentions, we already know exactly how people use to interact without social media, it was called the early 2000’s. What Darr should have focused on was how non-social media students communicated versus social network students in today’s age. Getting a group of technophobes in a room with social media addicted students and talking about how they communicate differently or the same would yield much better, targeted responses.