Sunday, 20 November 2011

The Social Experiment

This week my housemate, who studies Media, Culture and Society, asked if we could take part in a four day ‘social experiment’ for her dissertation. She requested that the whole house (five of us, all girls) would cut ourselves off entirely from all forms of social networking, emailing and ways of communicating technologically. That’s right…four days with no twitter, facebook, my.bham, gmail, Hotmail or the like. At first we were slightly outraged by this request, all complaining that it seemed somewhat demanding; after all we are final year students, and in the words of one of my housemates ‘need to check our emails’. However, we reluctantly agreed to take part. On the first day I continuously forgot that I was supposed to be ‘cut off’, and as if by some primitive reflex of social survival, automatically hit facebook every time I loaded my internet explorer. However, after a couple of days I managed to force myself to adjust, ‘proud’ on the Saturday when I’d only cheated the ‘experiment’ once. By the Sunday the experiment was over, and my housemate asked me to write a paragraph reflecting on my experience. What did I learn from these four days? That our need for the technology of communication has become so great that it is, indeed, now a need. The reaction of one of my housemates on being asked to take part was that she simply ‘wouldn’t’…indeed it was too difficult for her to cut herself off in this way for a few days. It has made me wonder, at what point did we become so technologically dependant? When did our need for constant social interaction become so prevalent? Indeed there was a time when, if information needed to be relayed it would happen over the course of a longer period of time through written forms, and when we needed to socialise with friends it would be over lunch once a week. One thing I did realise though was that I seemed to get a lot more work done during the days of the social experiment, and the other elements of my life have not fallen apart at the seams, just because I couldn’t check what my friends were thinking every hour on facebook. Perhaps the need for technology is not as great as we think.


  1. That sounds like a really interesting idea to carry out. Out world is so reliant on technology, and in many respects technology has improved our way of life. Social interaction has changed as some of us talk more to a screen than to a real person anymore. This is not necessarily a bad thing but human to human iteration is an important skill that still needs to be learned, for interviews, and forming meaningful relationships. I think i might try this out myself, not emails however but things like twitter and Facebook, i think i could survive without them for a week.

  2. This is an interesting post and raises some interesting questions. When DID we become so reliant on technology as a means of communication? It seems that the skill of conversing in person, either formally or informally has gradually eroded over the years as social media networks have risen to prominence. Is this a bad thing? Most definitely it is, as vital skills that we require to do basic jobs of work are being lost in the ether. I feel if we could all 'Log off' sites such as Facebook and Twitter and even do away with email for about a month we would see startling changes in our lives. For one thing our relationships would flourish as we would likely only communicate when we actually had something to say to one another, rather than being in constant contact to tell each other what underwear we have chosen to wear today.
    Social networking sites have made our world a smaller place and there is no doubt in my mind that they are positive tools. However just like anything they have the potential to be a negative to our lives. When used correctly it has the potential to enhance our lives...used wrongly then it has the potential to reek havoc with the very social fabric on which we rely.

  3. When my friend and I went travelling for eight months, we found the lack of access to communication really liberating. Neither of us took our laptops with us, and we barely forked out internet cafes. Although at times frustrating, living without a phone or constant reliance upon social networking sites/email added a new kind of excitement to our experience.

    We learnt to keep to our word, to meet people when we said we would and to put our trust in others because it wasn't easy to re-arrange. The time we spent on the internet was usually sandwiched into an hour period per week for practical reasons but also so that we could update our families on our whereabouts. Having an allotted amount of time to fit in our internet endeavours meant it felt like a priveldge; we wrote to our friends and families with anecdotal stories, put as much effort in as if we were writing letters.

    Back in England, are we telling each too much? Is the kind of creativity that was inherent in letter writing dead in this kind of communication?

  4. I have a friend who did a sponsored famine for charity, 24 hours with no food to raise money for an Africa charity (I forget which one). He extended it though to include not using any sort of technology. No TV, no internet, no ipod or anything. I'm ashamed to say that when I was thinking about if I could do it the thing which I found the most daunting was the thought of not using technology. (And everyone knows I love my food!) It would be the type of challenge I would love to complete though. I think it would definitely end up being liberating. Maybe not the Tv or the music, but next time I have revision to do I'm thinking of deactivating my facebook. Not JUST to get more work done, but to free myself a little bit.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.