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Lecturer Jennifer MacGregor speaks with her students after they turn on their phones for the first time in twelve days. Photo: Zach Hirsch
Lecturer Jennifer MacGregor speaks with her students after they turn on their phones for the first time in twelve days. Photo: Zach Hirsch

St. Lawrence students unplug for academic credit

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It can be scary when you can't get hold of someone. Most people these days are always reachable in some way, whether it's by cell phone, text, email, or Facebook.

Today's college students are part of the first generation to have grown up with social media, and St. Lawrence University lecturer Jennifer MacGregor is interested in how that's impacted their psychological development.

So MacGregor conducted an experiment: as part of her course "Identity in the Internet Age" she recently had her students "unplug" from the internet and social media for 12 days.

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Reported by

Zach Hirsch
Reporter and Producer

"It sort of came to me in a brainstorm. These students need to leave their digital homeland, feel homesick for it, and then go back to it. And then they'll have a little more objectivity as we undertake our research projects."

The experiment isn't about abandoning the internet completely. The students are allowed to go online for anything academic or sports-related. And they won't lose points for caving in and checking Facebook, as long as they own up to it in their journals.

MacGregor says she isn't trying to make her students nostalgic for a time before texting, and she says there's nothing wrong with the connectivity that smartphones allow. She just wants to get them to get out of their comfort zones and see what happens.

Liz Castricone is a student in MacGregor's class. She says when she started, she felt like a "legit addict", but now she's getting used to the silence. She's also gotten used to the sound of her landline phone: "I talk to my parents a lot. They had an absolute fit when I said I was going off the grid for 12 days."

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