A professor at Trinity Western University has started a voluntary media fast to help students understand the anxiety caused by their addiction to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.
For the past two years, Robert Doede, an associate professor of philosophy, has offered bonus credit for ethics students who successfully abstain from video games, texting, television and social networking sites for a three-month semester.
“A lot of these students have grown up on this type of technology,” said Doede yesterday.
“Their whole capacity to socialize has been constrained and configured by these technologies.”
About a third of his class attempts the fast, but most don’t make it past the third week. Out of a class of 35, only about five finish it.
For those that do, the experience can be transformative in terms of understanding friendships and relationships, Doede said.
Hannah Jenkins, 21, a fourth-year English and communications major, said the media fast changed the way she uses media and how she communicates with others.
Since the fast, Jenkins, who was an avid Facebook user, has removed her Facebook wall and no longer pastes photos. She uses it only for messaging during school projects.
Doede compares the addiction to social networking to Vaudevillian plate spinning.
“They always have so many of those things spinning in cyberspace that were always creating anxiety and panic in the background of their consciousness,” Doede said.
“This is letting some of those plates smash and looking at them and seeing which ones really matter to you.”