Back in September, Harrisburg University in Pennsylvania instituted a one week ban on social media sites on campus. FaceBook, MySpace, Twitter and instant messaging were blocked on the college systems. Eric Darr, Provost at the University, said that he realized that students could access these sites from their smart phones or by leaving the campus, but many students entered into the spirit of the experiment by sticking to the ban voluntarily.
What was the point of this exercise? Social media is part of the fabric of our lives, especially for young people. The point, according to Eric Darr, Provost of the university, was to draw attention to the use of social media, perhaps to take some time to reflect on how its use affects other areas of life.
In the admittedly non-scientific experiment, surveys were taken before and after the experiment. The ban affected students and faculty alike, and one quarter of the students and forty percent of the faculty completed the surveys, providing some interesting observations.
Students reported feeling less stress during the black-out week, some using the time they would have spent on social media activities to work on homework, exercise or sleep. Some students changed their study habits. One group realized that using Facebook to collaborate was not as productive as they had assumed, and that other tools would focus their energies better.
An observation which surprised me was that some of the faculty that previously showed no interested in the social media sites started to investigate them as a means of communicating with their students.
At least one student also suggested that as a result of the ban in September, she felt able to go on a social media diet during finals week, and found that she concentrated better on her studies.
While all of this is interesting from a sociology perspective, the take away for me is that like most things online and in life, social media is not good or bad. It is a useful tool for sharing information, but only one of the tools in the toolbox. Think about it for a minute. How do you use the social media sites that you frequent? Would you be lost without them for a week? Let me know!
Regina Sillitti is Project Coordinator for Dinkum Interactive. She has worked in programming, design, business analysis and quality assurance. Her background in design and data processing give her a unique perspective on client – tech translation. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image credit: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1105261