What happened when I made my students turn off their phones

<em>Photo Dick Thomas Johnson</em>

Excerpt from this article:

Initially, 37 per cent of my 30 students – undergraduates at Boston University – were angry or annoyed about this experiment. While my previous policy leveraged public humiliation, it didn’t dictate what they did with their phones in class. For some, putting their phones into cases seemed akin to caging a pet, a clear denial of freedom. Yet by the end of the semester, only 14 per cent felt negatively about the pouches; 11 per cent were ‘pleasantly surprised’; 7 per cent were ‘relieved’; and 21 per cent felt ‘fine’ about them.

Workarounds emerged immediately. Students slid their phones into the pouches without locking them, but because they still couldn’t use their phones in class, this became a quiet act of rebellion, rather than a demonstration of defiance. Some of them used their computers, on which we often search databases and complete in-class exercises, to text or access social media. I’m not comfortable policing students’ computer screens – if they really want to use class time to access what YONDR denies them, that’s their choice. The pouches did stop students from going to the bathroom to use their phones. In previous semesters, some students would leave the room for 10 to 15 minutes and take their phones with them. With phones pouched, there were very few bathroom trips.



Going back to Facebook after four years is a sad and scary experience

Facebook now has 2 billion users around the world.

Excerpt from this article:

I didn’t make a conscious decision to leave Facebook. It was similar to when I stopped smoking: every other time I’d made a song and dance about quitting I had failed, but when one day I realised that it didn’t make me feel good it dawned on me that I wouldn’t be missing out.

…So delving back into Facebook after a four-year break is a genuinely daunting experience. It’s like stepping off a plane and realising there’s a whole other world out there just carrying on without you. I am shocked to realise how much I have no clue about. The transformation of lives I once knew intimately. There are many babies I did not know existed. Last names changed with marriage. Sad death notifications. The shock of profile pages that are now memorial pages. These are things that in the past, even after moving away, one would hear about via text message or phone call or, even further back, through round robin emails and letters, but which now are collated on the internet’s noticeboard: Facebook. No need for any other town-crying.

My social media fast

Excerpt from this article:

Last week (approx. May 7-14), I stopped using social media for an entire week… Many people have given up social media and written about it — the digital equivalent of the “Why I’m Leaving New York” essay — but since I didn’t write about leaving New York, I’m going to do this instead.

I used to be very good about using my phone and social media appropriately. More than a decade of working on kottke.org taught me how to not be online when I wasn’t working (for the most part). I tried super hard not to use my phone at all around my kids and if I was out with friends, my phone stayed in my pocket.

Almost a year ago, after 13+ years in the city, I moved from lower Manhattan to rural Vermont… Social media, mostly through my phone, has been an important way for me to stay connected with friends and goings on in the wider world. But lately I’d noticed an obsessiveness, an addiction really, that I didn’t like once I became fully aware of it.


…Not a single person noticed that I had stopped using social media. (Not enough to tell me anyway.) Perhaps if it had been two weeks? For me, this reinforced that social media is actually not a good way to “stay connected with friends”. Social media aggregates interactions between loved ones so that you get industrialized communication rather than personal connection. No one really notices if a particular person goes missing because they’re just one interchangeable node in a network.



If You’re Going To “Quit Twitter,” Don’t Hang Around To Fave

Excerpt from this article:

You know the guy. He is Over Twitter. He swears off Twitter because it’s full of shit opinions, breaking-news terrorism, and puns everyone thought of but no one wanted to be the one to actually say. In other words, it’s an agora full of fools. (Guess what, you and I are the fools.) We don’t get to choose who shows up, but we can try (very often in vain) to filter out what we see. It’s far from perfect, but it’s what we’ve got, and you know, I can’t wait till it’s gone either! Just to see what’s on the other side.

But he is NOT one of those fools. He will not suffer us gladly. This guy is better than, above, superior. He sees Twitter for what it is: an amplifier for humanity’s least charitable opinions on everything from sandwiches to Chrissy Teigen. You know what? This guy is pretty much right. People suck, they say bad things, and megaphones make everything more annoying. So why does he still hang around here?

I Deleted My Facebook Account and This is What I Found

Excerpt from this article:

Facebook has become a swamp of crass and obnoxious street fights and post-election hysteria where people are judging and sentencing others on the spot. It is the mecca for confrontational sound bites, click traps, and associated public lynching’s where people are hung on the spot if they dare to have their own opinion.

Moving On

A few weeks before the election I had had enough. I posted my goodbyes and announced that anyone wishing to contact me that didn’t have my number to reach out. This act was met with fear and uncertainty as I contemplated the action…

Immediately I felt a sense of weight lifted from my shoulders. The air seemed cleaner and the world brighter. “What would I do with my non-Facebook time?” I was excited, I contemplated the things I could do. Read an extra news story, perhaps write an article or two. Although the time I spent on Facebook only amounted to 10–15 minutes spanning the whole day. It had become time wasted. It had become a weight, and source of anger and resentment that lasted much longer than the time I dedicated to the act. As Facebook has evolved to its current state, it no longer served me and actually had become a weight of toxic proportions. This realization was not clear until it was no longer in my life.

Today, about four weeks later, I no longer miss it. I enjoy the reading of that extra story, have had several normal conversations with the people that are close to me. I’ve even spoken to a friend, previously connected with on Facebook, at a coffeehouse; in person. It was a marvelous experience.


Quit Social Media. Your Career May Depend on It.

Excerpt from this article:

…In a capitalist economy, the market rewards things that are rare and valuable. Social media use is decidedly not rare or valuable. Any 16-year-old with a smartphone can invent a hashtag or repost a viral article. The idea that if you engage in enough of this low-value activity, it will somehow add up to something of high value in your career is the same dubious alchemy that forms the core of most snake oil and flimflam in business.

…A common response to my social media skepticism is the idea that using these services “can’t hurt.” In addition to honing skills and producing things that are valuable, my critics note, why not also expose yourself to the opportunities and connections that social media can generate? I have two objections to this line of thinking.

First, interesting opportunities and useful connections are not as scarce as social media proponents claim. In my own professional life, for example, as I improved my standing as an academic and a writer, I began receiving more interesting opportunities than I could handle. I currently have filters on my website aimed at reducing, not increasing, the number of offers and introductions I receive.

…My second objection concerns the idea that social media is harmless. Consider that the ability to concentrate without distraction on hard tasks is becoming increasingly valuable in an increasingly complicated economy. Social media weakens this skill because it’s engineered to be addictive. The more you use social media in the way it’s designed to be used — persistently throughout your waking hours — the more your brain learns to crave a quick hit of stimulus at the slightest hint of boredom.

Twitter and the Void

Excerpt from this article:

What kind of sound does a single tweet make? Our writer considers the reasons she left Twitter, and what it would take to bring other lapsed Tweeters back online.

My Twitter account fell silent last April, about six minutes after I had opened the thing. I say “fell silent,” but truly it was not much more than mute to begin with. I followed some folks. Replied to a friend. Something along the lines of, “between you and me…I’m tweeting.” I wasn’t sure what to do with my extra 105 characters. I added, “no promises.”

On Jan. 13, I scrambled, with many, for information. How many casualties among my colleagues in Haiti? What condition Toussaint L’Ouverture airport? How frequent, and how strong, and how long the aftershocks? What the hell is my Twitter ID?

…there are plenty of tweeters whose sudden silence comes without warning. A guy whose handle was “You Look Great,” hailing from “the universe’s loving embra,” posted daily aphorisms of a mildly amusing nature from February until August before slowing. By October it was biweekly. Not too long after “We touch the lives of every person we meet; we can also touch their tushies,” the dude left a million followers without their “daily passive aggressive affirmations.”

I wonder how many people clamored, “where is my ha-ha @You Look Great?” (There are no hashtags at the universe’s embra.)


…Certain hiatuses truly make one pause. Like Jennette’s last tweet in October 2009: “but my apartment is such a mess. I wouldn’t want them finding all that shit in my apartment.”


Or Britney, last tweet, November 2008: “FOR SALE: Parachute. Brand new, used only once. Never opened. Condition: stain on one side.”


Or Kelvin, who in September 2009 posted: “I need some spiritual guideance [sic] right now.”


… When I began writing this column I thought I saw a somber conclusion at its end. I thought I would be asking, how many tweeters does Twitter gain when there is an earthquake in Haiti or Chile? Or when there is unrest in Iran or a music festival (#sxsw)?


I thought I would ask, dramatically, just how lopsided was the Twitter equation—the one that saw the addition of me in the days after Jan. 12 and the subtraction of tiphilippe90 on his way back to school?


I asked on Twitter, is tiphilippe90 gone? And in no time at all, I heard, “nah he just don’t tweet anymore. No mystery.” I just hope I can time my exit with equal panache.