Social media blackout at Harrisburg U? Bad idea…

Some ideas are just plain bad.

According to Inside Higher Ed, the provost of Harrisburg University of Science and Technology (in Harrisburg, PA) is pulling the plug on popular social media sites for one week at his college. This “experiment” – I use the term loosely as he has no control or defined parameters – is intended to find out…what, exactly?

For a school centered around technology and at which social media is wholeheartedly embraced and used, this seems like an odd activity to pursue. In addition, the provost chose to block the following sites: Facebook, AIM, Twitter, and Myspace. In addition, he has ordered the collaborative functionality of the internal learning management system to be disabled.

W.T.H.? (what the heck?)

I’m by no means alone in my confusion about this story. A writer at Crunchgear offers these observations on why this study is doomed to fail:

  • Smartphones. “ Provost surely recognizes that much of the social web is accessible via smartphone, and text messages have largely replaced instant messenger applications”
  • Filter failure. “…blocking all social access…isn’t really even possible except by eliminating internet access altogether.”

In addition, I’ve come up with just a few more reasons to abandon this useless study:

  • Ethics. How often do you hear of experiments where the “test subjects” do not give their consent?
  • Out of touch. Why choose those social networks? If recent surveys are any indication, kids don’t use Twitter, Facebook is rapidly becoming passé, and MySpace is basically moot. And AIM? Really?!
  • Productivity. By disabling the Moodle learning management system, the Provost is taking away effective work tools…and during the beginning of the semester when communication and organization is most needed!
  • Disrupting business. You can bet that at a technology-centric college, there are more than a few students who have thriving online businesses. Businesses that probably rely on social media engagement. This “experiment” could negatively impact real-world moneymaking.

What am I missing here? Is there some redemptive aspect of this idea? What other “studies” have you come across that seem to completely miss the mark?

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