This week, Harrisburg University of Science and Technology comes back from a week long blackout on Facebook and other social media. They ran the “program” in an effort to get their students to think about how to use their time on such sites effectively and to decide whether it’s something that’s actually important to them. Of course, it’s also worth noting that the faculty is just as happy to have their social sites back as the students are.
The fact of the matter is, this experiment has consequences that reach a lot farther than the classroom. First off, it has obvious implications in the workplace: social media is currently the big thing in terms of getting your name out there for both potential customers and people you’ve done business with before to see. However, it can also be a way for employees to goof off rather than work while on the clock.
It should also be taken into account for its effect on your free time. Some people spend hours on end (or just hours sum total) doing things on Facebook and Twitter, and other social media, rather than on the things they used to do for rest and recreation. The upside is that they’re able to keep more thoroughly in touch with friends that they aren’t close to geographically but very close to emotionally.
It even has a bearing on advertising, because of how popular it’s been recently in online markets. If people start spending less time on their favorite sites, all the ads and social media programs run through those sites will far less effective at bolstering business – and might even wind up being a waste of money in some cases.
That said, places like Facebook have definitely proven their worth in terms of how much they can help some people to get their jobs done. The same people who planned HU’s blackout use social media for networking with each other and potential recruits to their university – the same is true at pretty much all other universities in the world, so it’s not likely that this experiment will be repeated in this setting very often.
However, there are already a number of companies that have banned the use of social media (at least outside of the departments dedicated to using them) form the workplace. The interesting thing is that other companies are now starting to use their own kind of social media in order to make work easier for their employees. Perhaps it’s all a delicate balancing act between spending one’s time on a new resource and wasting work time on some online toy.
In the end, Harrisburg University’s experiment isn’t probably going to change much of anything. Too many people have taken a vested interest in social media, both personally and professionally, for a simple “you’re spending too much time here” to stop them from doing so – and people would just start doing the same on something else if they actually did, because that’s human nature. It may make some people start regulating their time on sites like Facebook to some extent, but probably just as many people would use those sites with a renewed passion if they were subjected to and then released from such a blackout.
Even if people still need to get used to the idea of how to spend their time on it wisely, social media is definitely here to stay. It’s recently been proven that people like spending time on places like Facebook than they do on the various search engines they can use. “Don’t Stay There Too Long” isn’t going to change the sites people want to use, they’re going to have to decide through their own experiences how long is too long.