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A Facebook-less world is frightening

Originally published September 17, 2010

Imagine your day without Facebook or Twitter. Now imagine that for an entire week.

For Harrisburg University of Science and Technology in Pennsylvania, this will become a reality.
According to an article on CNN.com, the university’s server will prevent any student from accessing Facebook, Twitter or any other online communication site besides e-mail for one week.

Harrisburg Provost Eric Darr said he wanted students to consider how much of an impact technology has on their daily lives. At the end of the week, students will be required to write a reflective essay about their experience.

Of course, anyone who lives off campus or owns a smart phone will have access, and Darr said he was aware of that.

“If someone has to borrow a friend’s phone to go on Facebook,” he said, “it’ll be interesting to ask: Why did you do that? What purpose did that serve?”

I will admit, I’m a bit of a Facebook addict. And I know for a fact I’m not alone.

What other site has been so pervasive in our everyday lives? Phrases such as “I facebooked him,” “She friended me” and “So, last night I was Facebook stalking” are used constantly.

In fact, I have checked Facebook twice in the time it took me to write this.

But I won’t pretend that the occasional disconnection from social networking sites isn’t somewhat refreshing.

I think back to a power outage I experienced this summer. It lasted only six hours, but in that time I had no internet connection, a dead cell phone and one candle. I was in the middle of several conversations via text, at least one Facebook message and a Skype chat.

I realized that I was so constantly wrapped up in technology, I was ignoring my real, tangible life around me. My family did not text each other to say dinner was ready or to turn down the music, and I had a legitimate two-hour conversation with my brothers.

But the minute the power came back on, my brothers left to Skype their girlfriends and I immediately updated my Facebook status.

If six hours affected me so strongly, I wonder what a Facebook and Twitter-less week will do to the Harrisburg students. Will they spend that week efficiently, not having Facebook or Twitter to distract them? Or will they go right back to their procrastinating ways when their essays have been turned in?

As terrifying as it is to feel so disconnected for a week, a day or even a few hours, there was life before Facebook. And while I believe cutting back on social networks should be a personal, rather than an administrative, decision, I do think it will be quite the eye-opener for Harrisburg University.

As for me, I have considered a Facebook-less week of my own. But it might take another power outage to get there.