I listened to a report on a social networking fast the other day. It was public radio so they didn’t call it a fast of course. But Eric Darr, the provost of Harrisburg University, had the school’s internet service block all social networking for a week. He isn’t against it; he just wanted students to recognize how they spent their time. At the end of the week, each student had to write a paper on what they did with the time they usually would have been on facebook, or myspace, or twitter, or the time drain of your choice. He didn’t just want them to stop; he wanted them to see what they were missing. Some students were just annoyed. Others realized how much they were enmeshed by this when they caught themselves having to borrow a friend’s iPhone in order to check their facebook.
Jeron Lanier, author of You Are Not A Gadget, suggested rather than a fast, that each time you Facebook, Tweet, etc. that you put a dime towards a charity. Every time you want to check your Facebook you have to weigh that versus the cost. That way you see the effect and it actually costs you something measureable. Plus it benefits someone.
I don’t know what a good answer is, but I hope we can find a way to see the cost of how we spend our time. It’s funny to think time spent in social networking is actually taking away time we could spend with people. And sometimes those people are our spouses, our children. I’m definitely not saying all social networking is wrong. How ironic would it be to write a blog about the evils of social networking. Especially since you probably found out about it from my Twitter.
I do think that anything in which we invest a great deal of time, we should stand back from that and weigh the cost. We should know it’s value and therefore be able to recognize when we are out of whack. Just a thought.