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Step Away from that Smartphone, says RMU instructor

Monday, March 12, 2012

Pittsburgh – In an act of unimaginable cruelty, a Robert Morris University instructor has asked her students to give up social media and other 21st century communication channels for two whole days.

RMU communications lecturer Yvonne Bland is telling students in her Survey of Mass Communication course to forgo texting, using social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and making calls on a cell phone for social reasons beginning at the end of class on Tuesday, March 27, until the class meets again on Thursday, March 29.

“I want to build awareness of just how dependent upon technology we have become,” said Bland. “We don’t see that technology is a big deal -- that we are able to reach people 24/7, the instant gratification of realizing where our friends are all the time.”

Students will be required to “write down” their experiences with the experiment in a “blue book,” an antiquated educational tool which, according to Wikipedia, “is generally composed of two or three ruled leaves, bound in a sheet of paper and held together by staples.” Shockingly, Bland’s assignment does not appear to violate any university rules or state and federal laws.

“I don’t expect my students to all succeed, but I do expect them to share how they felt,” said Bland.

Bland stressed that the assignment is not an excuse for students to ignore work- and school-related phone calls and messages. Good thing for student Shane Spirik, who said she doesn’t even have a land-line telephone in her off-campus apartment.

“I text my mom and my boyfriend all day long, so not being able to get in touch with everyone will be difficult,” said Spirik, who uses an Android smartphone. “I’m going to feel very disconnected. I use Facebook to see how everyone’s doing. Not that it’s a great source for news, but I learn what’s going on from it.”

In act of solidarity – and masochism – Bland, a self-professed technology junkie, also plans to give up social media, texting, and cell phone calls herself for two days. “I have to do it too, and it’s not going to be easy.”

Robert Morris University, founded in 1921, is a private, four-year institution with an enrollment of approximately 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The university offers 60 undergraduate and 20 graduate programs. An estimated 22,000 alumni live and work in western Pennsylvania.