If you’re a student at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, then you are unaware that your Facebook friends have harvested plants, gotten into Mafia battles, and checked in at the local grocery store.
The university has blacked out social media sites for the last week.
The experiment began on Monday as a way for students to begin seriously considering the way they spend their time on the Internet. It was recently reported that the average user in the US spends more time on Facebook than on Google.
Eric Darr said the experiment is not a punishment for students, but the hope is that their university students will seriously consider the way they are using their time. Darr also added that he can’t believe that this week has caused such controversy on Twitter, Facebook, and even late night talk shows. Some have gone as far to accuse the school of infringing on people’s rights.
The hope is that the block will show students that stepping away from the computer can be a good thing for their overall grades and class attendance. Even Mashable is interested to see if the school reports any increase in attendance, but Adam Ostrow adds that he doesn’t think the blackout is feasible in the long term. “You really can’t disconnect people from it in the long run without creating some real inefficiencies and backlash.”
Students can still check via their smart phones and Darr is okay with that. “I want an honest reaction to the experiment.” The reaction has ranged anywhere from a typical “eh-whatever” college student reaction to those who are finding it difficult to coordinate their social activities without access to Facebook and Twitter.
While the blackout won’t last forever, it does open up some interesting questions, like what is the time we spend on social media sites taking away from? Are we slaves to social networks? I’ve only recently started to make myself “go offline” for one hour a day, and frankly, towards the end of that hour, I’m really excited about checking out the latest status updates or Twitter postings.
As far as a university goes, maybe if they attendance increases while social networks are down, it could be something that any school might consider shutting down during critical weeks like finals week. The next question I would ask would be when it became a university’s responsibility to teach you how to manage your time and be a dedicated student.
No matter what universities decide to do, the social blackout has caused controversy and stirred debate about how we manage our time on social networks, and how this time affects our daily activities.