(W)WWW: A (Whole) Week Without the Web?

Jeff Morosoff, Special Asst. Professor, Hofstra University

Next month, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Child will be leading what it’s calling “Screen-Free Week.” This national event is designed to get parents to turn off the TV, computer and other devices and find alternative ways for their children to play and learn.  There’s no denying that it’s going to be awfully hard to accomplish this, but maybe “Screen-Free Week” will heighten awareness of just how much time children spend in front of electronic screens.  And the numbers are astounding; a Kaiser Family Foundation study last year revealed that 8 to 18 year olds are multitasking on cell phones, computers and televisions to the tune of almost 11 hours a day.

At Hofstra, the School of Communication is leading its own related challenge: “A Week Without the Web (WWW).”  From April 4-8, students, faculty and administrators will be asked to try to go about their lives without using the Internet.  We’ll be tasked with looking at the way we live in 2011 and examining just how dependent we’ve become on the constant flow of information so accessible through our computers and hand-held devices. 

I’m planning to incorporate WWW into my PR classes but before I reveal what I have in mind, I’d like to put the question to my students: Could you manage to go a week–a day–or hours–without the web?  How might we apply this challenge to our classroom experience for a few days in April?  Your thoughts?

20 thoughts on “(W)WWW: A (Whole) Week Without the Web?

  1. Megan Messina

    As someone who was actively involved in the planning and execution of WWW, I was shocked at students initial response at the prospect of the internet access being removed from their fingertips. People were either eagerly willing to participate, or adamently against it.

    The statistics alone on how dependent we are, is shocking. But to try and attempt this myself, was a whole different matter. I realized that I would need to use the internet for my internship, as well as my schoolwork, but I continued to slip up in my personal life and not realized I was using the Web until it was too late. I think this was an extremely interesting expermiment, and very eye opening to a situation I hadn’t previously thought about.

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  2. Briana DeLuca

    As a co-chair for the Week Without the Web committee for PRSSA, I am very excited to participate in this initiative. With that being said, I am also nervous that I will have trouble succeeding because it is quite the challenge. However, I have to side with Caitlin on not giving ourselves enough credit because we did live in a world without the Internet before. Our saving grace for the week is that we can utilize the web at our internships.

    The events that are planned for the week will also help with succeeding. With students and faculty coming together, it is sure that the School of Communication will learn the most from the experience.

    Good luck!

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  3. Amanda

    Interning makes this extremely difficult since the internet is used for basically everything that I do at the office. Even the manual tasks such as mail and putting proposals together requires the use of technology. There are so many tihngs that require technology, that this idea is almost unrealistic, epsecially in the business of Public Relations.

    However, I do support the idea of using it to find alternate ways of entertainment, especially for kids. I find that children’s decrease in outdoor activity and increase in video games, television, and use of computers to be a bit disturbing. There are so many things gained from outdoor games (outdoor sports, neighborhood man hunt, riding bikes, etc)that are lost when technology is substituted. I would love to see this work for families with children.

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  4. Eileen Zarina

    I really like the challenge of a week without the web, but it is honestly going to be impossible for me to follow. Like many other SOC students, I intern three days a week and about 80 percent of the work that I do there requires me to use the internet.

    I do want to somewhat participate, so I will only be using the internet while I’m interning. No email/Facebook/Twitter checking during my personal time. I just have to figure out how to turn off the notifications on my BlackBerry so that I’m not tempted to check them :-/

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  5. Cait Scungio

    For some, going a week without the web can be a troubling idea. Personally, I would not be able to do it. Especially in the world of Public Relations where we send and receive emails and update Facebook/Twitter and blogs, the web is a vital part of our lives. It would be nice to cut out the wasted time we spend surfing the web but going a full week without it seems next to impossible.

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  6. Sarah Facciolo

    I honestly think its insane the amount of time we really do put on the Internet in our life. I know that my 5-year niece knows how to get online and play her games. To me that is crazy and just shows how much impact that technology ahs done. But I totally think that this event is perfect and will be a learning experience. It definitely will not be easy to do. I think that to manage this in the classroom we should be assigned to have to read the newspaper and not go online for it and see how much of an impact it makes just to get the newspaper in our hands and read it. Challenging ourselves will just make us better at not relying on the Internet. I hope this event really does make a difference.

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  7. Chelsea Rae Simmons

    I’m not look forward to WWW, and I know I won’t be able to last the entire 5 days because I have to use the web for my internship. That being said, I’ve gone a week without using my computer, and I’ve gone at least a day technology-free. My week without a computer, however was spent on a beach in Florida and Long Island is nothing like Florida. My day without technology consisted of me devouring a book (visually, of course) and forgetting anything existed but the characters in the novel.

    My point is, when I’m actually living my life, I have so many things to do not using the web would be impossible. I know I’m going to break the digital fast because I’ll undoubtedly check my email on my phone without even thinking.

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  8. wsteiner89

    At this point in my life, I don’t think I’d be able to do this. I am constantly busy and depend a lot on my phone and computer for work and school more than socializing or for entertainment purposes these days anyway. In terms of applying WWW to class in April, we can keep a log of how much time we spend on our phones, internet/computer and watching TV. I think that everyone will be slightly shocked to see how much of their lives are spent involved with it. I don’t think that most of the class would be able to cut everything off for WWW because so many of us are working and doing internships now, but we could definately cut down or keep a record of it.

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  9. Lisa Jablon

    I just mentioned on Julie’s blog that PRSSA is thrilled to have such an active committee planning this week-long event. We have things planned throughout the week to get people’s minds off of the web and into the real world of learning OUTSIDE OF THE COMPUTER. Unfortunately, we’ve already heard some backlash from people that this is impossible especially in our field, but we are determined to show the real impacts of social media, the web, and the like on the lives of people today, specifically students. I have brought a map with me ONCE recently into the city, and got laughed at so much that I was almost embarrassed to use such an “ancient” thing. It will definitely be interesting to see what the outcome of this week is!

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  10. Tori Tarkhan

    The idea of spending less to no time in front of a screen, even for a mere week, is seemingly impossible to me. Although I recognize the importance of highlighting our societies dependence on television, the internet, and our mobile devices, I don’t think it will be effective. What is probable to happen is that parents will cut off their children to make a point, and as soon as the week is up, they will resume their habits.
    Not to be negative, but I think the Week Without the Web effort seems unimportant in a world where learning is widely encouraged on the web by all levels of schooling. In many of my classes, a computer or internet access is required, so how can we expect people to slow down? Even right now, I am on the internet to type this blog response, because it is a part of class. It is unavoidable at this point, to get people to decrease their time in front of a screen. If anything, the average 11 hours we spend in front of a screen will increase. Yes, the effort will be keep people away from the screen for the week, but it will most likely not last.

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  11. Melissa DiMercurio

    As a Public Relations major – there is no way that I could go 2 minutes with out electronics. I constantly get emails and updates that help me navigate my every day life.

    I need to be in constant contact with my peers, teachers and internship sponosors. All day long I type up things on the computer for my internship and my classes. Plus, I wouldnt be able to blog and do all of my “online” homework.

    I understand why children need to be apart of this program. They are kids and they should be playing outside and enjoying their young lives. But in the competitive world that I live in at age 22, it is just not possible.

    I will exercise this program during my summer months if I have nothing to do for a week or so, but to lay on the beach. Other then that – I will be glued to all my contraptions.

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  12. Pete Guaraldi

    In present day, I have to admit that I rely too much on technology as well to get by in every day life. Not only do I use technology for entertainment purposes, (communication, social media, surfing, etc.) but I use it to get my news. As a college student interning, going to class and having a job, I don’t have the time right now to sit down and watch a newscast for an hour or sit for 45 minutes reading the Times. It’s unfortunate because of our reliance on it, but I don’t think I could successfully complete the one week experiment without the internet.

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  13. Caitlin Brown

    I don’t think people are giving themselves enough credit for what they’d be able to do without the internet – for me, I know my biggest time waster is definitely Facebook, and the Zynga games supported on the social networking site (I won’t lie, I’m addicted to Farmville STILL).

    I’m also on the WWW committee, and we’re trying to make this transition as welcoming as possible for everyone – and it’s not a whole week, just Monday through Friday. As a busy student, intern, and employee, I don’t think it will be too difficult to not use the web; my biggest issues will be with any down-time I may have. I use the internet and Facebook to rewind at the end of my day. However, I’m more open to this idea than most people: I remember going a week without TV in elementary school, and while it seemed difficult then, I barely watch TV now as it is. While the internet isn’t going away anytime soon, or ever, I’m hopeful this “Week Without the Web” will make me less dependent on my computer for news, gossip, and relaxation.

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  14. Julie Wiener

    When I first heard about the Week Without the Web I was extremely hesitant. I wrote a blog entry on this about a week ago discussing my qualms with being internet-less, but after thinking about it more I think it’s a really great experiment. It made me think about what I did before the internet was such a huge part of my life and I missed it–Reading more, being outside more, not having an inexplicable need to check Facebook every 10 minutes.

    I’m also on the Week Without the Web committee and we are working on planning some fun events during the week to help reminisce on life before the internet as well as to distract us from our current dependency. So before you write off the WWW as being completely insane and useless, think about riding your bike, reading a book–I suggest Harry Potter–or playing a board game…I prefer Scrabble.

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  15. agarone

    The idea of being cut off from the internet scares me. In today’s society, we rely on it a great deal. I can’t imagine doing school work and research without it. Besides research related tasks, we also rely in it for every day life. For example, even though today is Saturday and I am not doing research, I used the internet to check the weather and get directions. We have been spoiled with the easy access we have to the internet; it has become second nature to us. A week without using it will certainly be difficult and take a conscious effort not to use it.

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  16. Jacqueline Chiapuzzi

    I do agree that younger kids should try and stay away from the video games, televisions, Facebook using, get outside and play before all this technology has came about. The child obesity in american is at its highest its ever been.

    But the internet has changed our world in so many way if some people wanna see it or not. Almost everything we do today has to do with a computer and the internet. School; getting in contact with a teacher these days has nothing to do with the phone most times. One doesn’t waste time calling, making a appointment, and meeting with the teacher, they just e-mail them what they need and then wait for a reply. Work e-mails are a regular today and company website’s e-mails to get information. Even keeping in contact with loved ones and friends has turned to Facebook, E-mails or Skype, putting the phone to shame in a lot of cases. Many important things one does in life has to do with the internet in one way or the other does it not?

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    1. jmorosoff Post author

      It’s a shame on some level, though. I would like nothing more than to have every one of my students visit me in my office to chat about assignments, careers, research, etc. But email, as you said, is an easy substitution for human contact. I hope the next generation won’t lose the importance of personal contact completely.

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  17. Alex Petrucelli

    I support the idea of “Week Without the Web”…in theory. Amidst the semester, I cannot go more then 20 minutes without the web given the 75 e-mails (not an exaggeration) I send/receive each day. I am not ashamed to say I am co-dependent on the Internet; the profession of Public Relations is dependent on that. Could you imagine mailing a press release nowadays? I’m laughing already.

    Since the Internet/e-mail/social media is important amidst my internship, job hunt and my networking, I cannot forgo it for a week. My attempt at participating in WWW is eliminating Internet usage for recreational use (i.e YouTube, Netflix Instant-Watch, Hulu). I think this is fair; I could use the television or read as means of entertainment.

    Actually, I am talking like I have free time…which I don’t. So maybe this will be easier then I thought.

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