The Social Experiment: Old Skool is Still Cool

In today’s connected world, have you ever looked back at the times when we had conversations with loved ones face to face, hand in hand or if that wasn’t possible we wrote them hand written letters on hand made paper adorned with hand crafted insignia or memorabilia? Nostalgic isn’t it? Today I’d rather meet people on Facebook, exchange notes on Twitter and read/send mail on my Blackberry. In fact I almost loathe having to make a telephonic conversation. Why can’t you just email/txt/IM me instead? And I’m no teeny bopper, I’m a man entering middle age mind you. So imagine today’s youth doomed with the prospect of no connectivity. How would they respond to such a world?

An Idea!

The idea started when Trent Mitchell, a video-production teacher at Shorecrest saw the movie The Social Network, a story about the founding of Facebook and wondered if his students could cut themselves off from text and Facebook. Mitchell, 36 told the students that he didn’t think they could tear themselves away from social media. Half the students said they could do it; the other half thought it was the worst idea they’d ever heard, he said. So he pulled in friend and teacher Marty Ballew, and together created The Social Experiment.

The Social Network

To promote the project, students made video trailers spoofing “The Social Network” and the Harry Potter series. Shorecrest High School students Jesse Hoefer, left, Nicholi Wytovicz, Mara Harris, Samuel Chudler and Corey Smith video documented the process with confessional videos and interviews with students and staff, some of whom also volunteered to cut themselves off. The schools will combine the results for a final documentary film on the experiment.

The Social Experiment

The daring high school students of Shorewood and Shorecrest High School participated in the experiment to give up their text, e-mail, Facebook and Twitter for a week long social media blackout dubber ‘The Social Experiment’ – a project where hundreds of Shoreline high-school students are giving up social media for one week. Under the rules, students can call each other but until the experiment began, many of them never did. The experiment is based mostly on an honor system, but secret spies roamed the halls, sending text messages to students and instant messages to people breaking the rules on Facebook. Answer the text and you might get the response: “You’re out of the Social Experiment!”

The Results

Students used to sending or receiving 200 texts per day, found themselves resorting to activities like chores, homework and actually talking on their cellphones. Some students went to extremes to make sure they didn’t break the rules. Five Shorewood students handed their cellphones over to Ballew. One girl gave him her Facebook password and asked him to change it for the week to avoid temptation. Since Monday, Tanner LeCount, 16, has been calling his mom instead of texting her to let her know what he’s doing. Eimanne El Zein, 17, has given up Facebook for runs with her dogs. Nicholi Wytovicz, 16, has replaced status updates with chores and homework. Cole Sweeten, 17, found out some of his friends are awfully awkward on the phone. “People sound different when they’re on the phone,” he said. “It’s emotion, not just little lines.” Tanner’s mother, Pam LeCount, says “I’ve had more calls from him in these last four days than in six months”.

Deja Vu?

Doesn’t this feel awfully familiar. It must be because that’s what life was like barely two decades ago. What do you think? Would you be willing to attempt a similar experiment in your home or office? If you have attempted anything similar in your own family, do share your thoughts and results. Was it wildly successful or did you risk a total mutiny?