#HecklersHangout 25 with @chattyprof: Social Media For or Out of Boredom
We had a truly interesting conversation tonight on ye olde Hecklers’ Hangout. Ellen Bremen has been running an experiment with her students for a few years now. She has them watch this TedX talk by Sherry Turkle and then asks them to “fast” from social media and texting for three days. They can talk to professors via email but otherwise they need to talk to people face-to-face or via the phone. After the three days are up the students are required to write a paper about how their experience affected them.
A few things in the conversation impacted me personally and really resonated.
First, Ellen talked about how some of her students felt that the “fast” was unfair because it actually made them question how real their friendships were. When the students could talk to their friends via Facebook or text, they felt their friendships were secure. As social media no longer became a factor, the friendships seemed to diminish in depth. The students didn’t really know how to reach out to each other in person or via the phone, and for some, that made it seem like their whole lives needed to be questioned. While this is extremely sad, there is also another perspective for those of us who have a lot of online friends but who did not grow up with social media. If your work is done in the framework of Facebook and Twitter, it’s far easier to just communicate with your friends (as you can) while you’re there. Reaching out via phone or via email or via Skype can end up seeming like just another platform, and if you are already suffering from social media fatigue, you just may not want to go there, no matter how much you want to reach out to your friend.
Another point I thought was really interesting is that Ellen’s students had two different approaches to the topic of boredom. Some said that they scanned Facebook or posted to Facebook because they were bored and wanted something to do. Others said that without Facebook and texting they were bored because they really didn’t know what to do. One of our regular hecklers, Jure Klepic, said his research indicates a lot of people post to Facebook almost like a nervous habit. When people are bored they post so they can monitor reactions and get the endorphin high.
Ellen also talked about the fact that a lot of her students get defensive when encountering the idea that maybe they are not fully preparing themselves for “real life” communication. “Our ways are just different than yours were when you were our age,” they say.
So what do you think? How would you react if your boss or teacher said, “You need to take a 3-day fast from social media and texting!”? How do you think it would impact you? What would you learn about your life and about yourself? Check out the conversation and let us know what you think!