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Life Without Social Media

David Silversmith
David Silversmith

A small technological college in Pennsylvania with fewer students than many Facebook users have friends tested out a week long social media ban. The bold experiment at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology means students and staff can't access Facebook, Twitter or a host of other social networks while on campus.  On the campus computer network attempts to log in to MySpace or Facebook or use instant messaging returned the message: "This domain is blocked."

The University Provost, Eric Darr, said the exercise is not a punishment for the school's 800 students, nor a preview for a campus wide ban, but a way for people to think critically about the role of social media in our lives. Darr said he was surprised by the controversy that this plan generated.  Lauren Melcher writing for the Huffington Post said in regards to social media that "If colleges and universities ignore this reality, they might not survive."

While some bloggers accused the school of infringement upon student's rights; the students were largely supportive of the whole exercise.  Of course, the fact that those that live off campus; have smartphones or frequent coffee shops with Wi-Fi were not really blocked probably had a lot to do with the student's lack of reaction. 

The staff may have been more impacted than the students as college officials could not use social networks for student recruiting, business networking or curriculum planning.  The staff had less flexibility to wonder over to Wi-Fi hotspots. The university also hosted a social media summit during ths blackout and that caused disruption for the professors and guest speakers who have grown accustomed to using social media while away from their offices. Guest speaker Sherrie Madia, talked about how the buzz around the ban has started a much-needed conversation about effective use of social media and how to balance online life with the real world. "Do we really want to be enslaved to Facebook or Twitter?" Madia said. "Once you create anything in social media, you have to feed the beast. When you stop adding content, you disappear."


If you doubt how much Harrisburg can learn in a mere week consider the challenge from Robert Doede, an associate professor of philosophy at Trinity Western University, in the British Columbia province of Canada.  Doede challenges students in his ethics course to abstain from Facebook for an entire semester, and keep a journal on the experience, for extra credit.  Could you last for without social media? 

Most of us lasted for years and decades before social media came into existence, but can we go back in time?

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