This past week, students at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, were part of an experiment in social networking run by the school’s administration. The experiment? How would students perform without social networking for a week?
Harrisburg University is blacking out Internet access on campus to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for a week. Attempts to connect to these websites will give a “forbidden”-type error message on browsers.
Provost Eric Darr said the exercise that began Monday is not a punishment for the school’s 800 students, nor a precursor to a ban, but a way for people to think critically about the prevalence of social media.
The blackout comes on the heels of a report that web users in the U.S. spend more time socializing on Facebook than searching with Google, according to data released last week from researchers at comScore Inc.
Still, Darr said he can’t believe the controversy generated in the Twitterverse, blogosphere and academia, with some accusing the school of inflicting “a terrible thing and an infringement upon people’s rights.”
“By and large, the students are supportive of the whole exercise and don’t get so worked up over it,” Darr said.
Normally, I’m the kind of person who opposes bans like these. In a college setting, Facebook, LinkedIn and their ilk are tools of real value, useful for collaborating on projects, planning events and even just socializing — which, in a world where networking is increasingly important for career success, is essential.
But it seems like Harrisburg University is doing this for all the right reasons. They’re not censoring, they’re challenging the way students think about social networking. It’s a valuable discussion because these tools are so ingrained in our modern culture that it’s hard to imagine not using. If only to illuminate how we take such tools for granted, it’s a worthwhile experiment.
Have any of our readers been blocked out of social networking at work or school? How do you feel about such blocks? Sound off in the comments section!