A Ban on Social Networking

Jessica Hermann, Staff Writer

How dependent are you on social media networks?  Do you access them just a few times a week in order to send your friends a quick message, or are social media networks your primary method of communication for group projects and homework assistance?  Do you often find yourself refreshing your profile page, eagerly anticipating the appearance of a new notification?  Whatever the case may be, social media networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, constitute a huge component of student life inside and outside of the academic community.  Unfortunately, they can also create large distractions and divert students from their academic responsibilities.  The Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, located in Harrisburg, PA, realizes that these social networking websites serve both positive and negative roles on their college campus.  To further explore these effects, the university conducted an experiment to test the level of student and faculty reliance upon social media.

During the week of September 13 – September 20, the university blocked all access to social media networks (including Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and Instant Messaging) within the boundaries of its campus.  Students and professors were forced to rely upon e-mail, phone calls, and text messaging to communicate with one another.  In addition, the student recruiting and business networking programs that the university usually conducted through social media websites were temporarily placed on standby.

According to the FOX News website, this experiment was met with mixed reactions.  Although the majority of students approved of the study, there were some participants who viewed the exercise as “a terrible thing and an infringement upon people’s rights.”  Nevertheless, most people felt that the experiment freed them from worrying about their online social status and allowed the students to instead direct their concentration towards their coursework.  As student Ashley Harris, 22, said, “I feel obligated to check my Facebook. I feel obligated to check my Twitter.  Now I don’t.”  She added, “I can just solely focus.”

On the other hand, almost everyone agreed that a year-round implementation of the ban would not be feasible.  Although student levels of academic attentiveness rose during the week of this investigation, social media networks are simply too important nowadays to be prohibited.  Students use them to organize events and schedules, to arrange group study sessions, and to collaborate on class assignments.  In addition, teachers depend on these networks to contact their students and colleagues, and various divisions within the university could not operate without them.

Despite its lack of potential for longevity, it appears that this experiment has been a success.  Students, professors, and collegiate staff have been compelled to analyze their dependence upon social media networks and to weigh the pros and cons of spending time online.  Hopefully, their experiences with this study will allow them to better plan their use of these websites and to refocus their attention less on social life and more on academic goals as the year progresses.