By Sara Bernard
Last week, Eric Darr launched a temporary ban on social media sites at the Harrisburg University of Science and Technology (this included Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and AOL Messenger). It wasn't punitive at all, he says. Rather, it was a way to get students, faculty, and staff to reflect on their habits and behaviors toward social media. And while many students did not actually comply with the ban -- they still had access via wireless devices and off-campus networks -- the experiment was, according to Darr, a resounding success.
Q: What was your original vision for this temporary social media ban on campus?
A: The original observation was that the set of technology we call "social media" has a big impact on the way students, faculty, and staff here at the university live their lives and do their work. It's not just a peripheral time-waster. But posing this to students in an academic setting didn't seem to quite get to it; habits are very hard to talk about and articulate because we’re not aware that we're doing them. Imagine a world without social media! So, we thought, let's take it away. How long should we take it away for? Just for a day, or a whole semester? We decided on a week. We picked the particular sites that we were going to ban based on the ones most prevalent in use. Without spending a whole bunch of money and effort to block wireless signals, the ban was just enacted over the university network, knowing full well that people can access these things in other ways, via Smart Phones and so on.