The Social Media Detox Effect

That’s the name I’d like to assign to the latest experiment from Harrisburg University of Science and Technology’s Eric Darr. The school’s Provost is proposing to cut the entire undergraduate student body’s social media experience for one full week. “That’s interesting,” “Many people won’t like that,” and “I’m glad I don’t go to HUST” are among the initial thoughts that popped into my mind after reading about this social media detox at TechCrunch. Let’s examine: what really will happen to all those poor, unfortunate souls – I mean, students? But first, an anecdote!

This morning I’m awoken by the alarm going off on my Droid. I shut it off and see notifications indicating that I have received a few new tweets and e-mails overnight. I answer the tweets, read and respond to the e-mails, Foursquare my location with a benign comment and move along to breakfast. Multiple times throughout the day, I check-in on Foursquare or SCVNGR, and I TwitPic my free lunch from Boloco (thanks, @Boloco!) all from my Droid. The point is this – in this digital age, the school simply isn’t going to be entirely capable of disabling all social media access points. People will find ways around traditional computer access.

But for the sake of this experiment, let’s pretend like HUST really has some magical social media blocking potion brewing. How will students react? Consider the following scenarios:

Scenario One: The important communication lines between classmates working on an huge project all but break down because they were relying on their shared Google Docs. They receive a failing grade for not being able to make up the lost work.

Scenario Two: The obsessive online gamer comes home from a long day of classes and only wants to delve into his world of goblins and spirits (forgive me if my creature references are off – I steer clear of video games for the most part). Say this young student places as much or more value in his online relationships as he does his offline ones. Imagine the shock/depression he will feel in their absence for a full week.

Scenario Three: People actually realize that they are not nearly as dependent on Twitter/Facebook/Digg as they had previously thought (even if it takes a day or two to adjust). They shift their communication offline and spend extra face-time with their close friends.

Scenario Four: The student body revolts in a violent rebellion, igniting the school in a fiery blaze. Police riot gear is rendered useless against the students who can no longer comment on their BFF’s relationship statuses. Entire chaos! (This really isn’t that likely, is it?)

Whatever the outcome, this is an fascinating experiment. I’ll be most interested to find out how effectively the school can actually monitor and disable social media use. However, I suppose the reactions – both positive and negative – will be equally entertaining. What would happen if this same social media prohibition took place at your school/workplace?

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  1. […] previously wrote about the recent Harrisburg University experiment to ban social media on its campus for an entire week. No tweets, no check-ins, no nothing. I, like many others, pointed […]



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