Could You Go A Week Without Facebook?
That’s the question Harrisburg University of Science and Technology asked its students recently. During an experiment, the school banned Facebook, Twitter and a host of other social-networking sites from all computers on campus. Though the provost of the school made it clear the ban wasn’t permanent and it wasn’t being done as punishment to the students, he also pointed out he’d endorsed the plan because he wanted students of the school to think about how social media was affecting their lives.
It raises an interesting question: Could you go a week without social media? As someone who checks his Facebook page and Twitter feed religiously (despite the fact that I haven’t sent out a tweet in almost a month now), I have to admit social media has become a part of everyday life for me. When I wake up, I check my Facebook page immediately. I do it partly because it allows me to shake off the cobwebs from my brain before I start my day—and partly because I figure that if anything happened overnight that I need to know about, it’ll probably be in my feed.
During the day, I use Facebook as a way to get my latest articles some cheap publicity. I’m not particularly good at advertising myself, but every now and again, I’ll work on something I’d like my family and friends to check out. So I post a link to it on Facebook in the hopes they’ll see it and check it out. And, of course, I also use Facebook and Twitter as a quick distraction throughout the day. Whenever I need a break or just need a quick distraction, I turn to one of two sites to provide that for me.
All of that said, I’ve been accused (on more than one occasion!) of being addicted to social media. I’ve been out at a bar or at a ball game or just sitting in the backseat of a car and used “the ‘Book” as a quick distraction. I’ve updated my status during an important meeting, browsed photo albums when I should have been finishing up an assignment and sent out inbox messages while I’m literally standing next to someone having a conversation with them.
But, am I alone? These days, everyone is addicted to some form of social media. If it’s not Facebook, it’s Twitter (I, for the record, have found it difficult to update every single thing that I do, so I’ve given up on using Twitter regularly). If it’s not Twitter, it’s Tumblr. And if it’s none of these things, it’s text-messaging, which has now been relegated to being one of the oldest and most basic forms of social media.
As a society, we’ve come to depend on these everyday forms of communication. Is it good? Maybe not. It’s definitely reshaping our brains and forcing our minds to think differently than they used to. Is it bad? Eh, I wouldn’t say that, either. While Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites can be a distraction, they are also rather informative. True, I’m not learning a lot from the people who write “I love eating Burger King!” or “Man, the New York Mets stunk tonight!” but if I hadn’t caught it on Twitter and Facebook, I wouldn’t have known there was a tornado in New York City late last week. I wouldn’t have known the Black Eyed Peas were performing at the Super Bowl this year and been able to write a blog about it last week. Hell, I wouldn’t have even written this blog—because I originally saw the story about the Harrisburg University of Science and Technology experiment on Twitter. Go figure.
Bottom line: We all depend on Facebook and Twitter more than we probably realize. I know a lot of people who aren’t on either and, while they manage just fine, they also haven’t heard about most of the things I bring up when say, “Hey, did you hear…?” In today’s world, it puts them at a decided disadvantage. With all of the news sources out there, they have a tough time hearing about everything that I do simply by checking my Facebook or Twitter feed a few times everyday. It’s not a perfect system, but it works for me.
So, could I survive without Facebook for a week? Yeah, I probably could. I’d probably be forced to text message or—gulp—call people more often. I’d probably have to devote a couple hours of my time to reading newspaper articles and blogs on the Internet, too, to get my information. And I’d have to stop pretending that Facebook life is “real” life for a few days (which, if you ask me, is still debatable—but we’ll save that argument for another day…).
I could do it. But, with the way the world works today and with the way information is sent out and processed, why would I want to? It’s not that I can’t live without Facebook or that I’d die without checking my Twitter. It’s that they have become two of the many ways that I gather my information everyday. It’s like asking me to stop reading the local newspaper every morning (yes, I still do that!) or telling me I can’t talk to my friends anymore. It’s not that I couldn’t do it—it’s just that if I did, I’m not so sure I’d actually be doing myself a favor. #justsaying