Put down the phone. Ignore Instagram, forget Facebook, take a break from Twitter, and hit the snooze button on your Snapchat account—at least for a few days.
That’s what students at Georgian Court University are being asked to during the university’s Digital Detox, set for Sunday, March 18, through Thursday, March 22. The campus challenge addresses anxiety issues and encourages people to step away from their smartphones. Participants are expected to reconnect with each other in real life and be present in ways that don’t involve hashtags or photo filters.
“Nationally, there is a problem with students and anxiety on college campuses, and some of the research points to our growing addiction to our devices,” says Amani Jennings, dean of students at Georgian Court. “Too often, our in-person, face-to-face interactions are lacking because so much is virtual.”
Beyond the Digital Detox, Back to Life
Here’s how the digital detox works: Each day, students are challenged to trade the time they would have spent on social media for a different kind of activity. For example, on Wednesday, March 20, participants will not be on Twitter, Facebook, or play video games. Instead, they can spend time with Tucker the therapy dog, work out in the GCU Wellness Center, or show up for the GCU pool challenge that night.
“The message isn’t necessarily that cellphones and social media are bad,” says Dean Jennings. “Rather, let’s look at how we are using technology and how we can do it in a way that is healthy and safe.”
On Thursday, March 22, GCU Associate Professor Gina Marcello, Ph.D., who leads GCU’s digital communication program, will lead “Welcome to the Digital Neighborhood.” Her presentation will explore how students can best use social media personally and professionally. She will also talk about a person’s digital footprint influences job preparedness.
“The anxiety issue is complex,” says Dean Jennings, who adds that a range of factors contribute to the national problem. “There is no way there is a singular answer to the anxiety they face,” he says. “GCU’s Digital Detox just asks them to engage with each other outside of their devices.”