The social experiment


Facebook   | Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle

NXg asked, rather dared, four youngsters to stay off the Internet, Facebook, Twitter and search engines each for a week. While it is quite a devil to resist, the challenge proved to be one of self-discovery and realisation. Here’s what they had to say by the end of the one-week challenge…

Web waned

What: Internet

The good: Making life easier

The bad: Making me lazier

Realisation: Need to use it optimally and cautiously

For someone who looks up the internet for everything from directions on the road to reading the news, this challenge was truly obstreperous.

Though I’m not largely active on the social networking sites, I do end up spending a great deal of time on YouTube, Wikipedia and football transfer sites. Adding to this is my compulsion to Google everything I come across and the hyperlinks keep me absorbed for unfathomable periods of time. To make a serious attempt, I didn’t check mail too.

Day one was all about defying the urge, day two passed fighting boredom and the rest of the week passed rather surprisingly since I was in control with what I wanted to do as my attention diverted towards the other fun stuff that had taken a back seat for a while.

I entertained myself with my Xbox, watched a lot of TV and movies, invading my parent’s pastime in the process, yet they were rather happy to see me out of my room and without my laptop for change. When my mom asked me about the sudden difference that she noticed,

I told her about my assignment and faced some pleasant teasing.

With the opportunity being presented to him, my brother had the data card exclusively to himself for the entire week and he would be more than happy if this could go on forever. My friends could notice the minimal usage of my mobile and when I told them at first they swore they couldn’t pull off anything like this but I did manage to talk a few of them into trying it.

Now, as I contemplate about what to write about my experience, I realise that the internet, with its ability to literally bring the world right before my eyes with the click of a button makes me lazier than I thought it did, also and I end up keeping no track or trace of time while I’m online resulting in an endless monotony.

However, when I look back at the alternatives I took to, it is crystal clear that there is no escaping technology in this age but at the same time I can’t deny that the internet is serving its purpose by making our lives easier.

In the end, it’s all about being circumspect with the use of any resource we possess and never bowing down to it. Now on, I hope to be watchful of the web this time around.


B.Tech., Civil Engineering, SRM University

Lost and found

What: Search engines

The good: Diverse information at a click

The bad: A leisure activity too!

Realisation: Can’t do without!

Right when my challenge was to begin, I was informed that the time had come to choose a topic for my final year project. I felt helpless and traumatised as I could not just think of a topic without first Googling it and making sure if it was compatible to my interests or not.

I was put through a lot of exercise as I spent most days running to my peers and professors, so that I could find some probable project topics from them. Sometimes, I would also try to enter relevant terms as links directly onto my browser. And needless to say, without a search engine, the wrong sites would almost always open up. I also started frequenting the library to find old research papers and look at examples of projects that had been done by my seniors. This proved to be difficult and time-consuming.

I also had more to worry as campus placements are on in my college right now and without search engines, I was afraid I could not research well about the companies whose interviews I would attend. So a day or two before an interview, I did my research the hard way — bought a few business magazines and read up about my interviewing company. Yet, this information was not as far-reaching and diverse like the ones I would have found with the help of a search engine. For a while at least, I was certain that a decent job was out of bounds for me.

After taking up this challenge, I realised that search engines ruled even on the activities I would do during my spare time. For instance, I love reading up on the internet. Whenever I would be free, I would just open up a search engine and key in anything I want to read about.. But during this week, I had actually started reading books, and that was something I hadn’t done in a really long time.

At the end of the challenge, I’ve realised that for most youngsters like me today, search engines are like an older member of the family. That’s because no matter what our query, they always guide us to the right solution and help us work out our problems.


Final Year, B.Tech (ECE), SRM University


Not chirpy

What: Twitter

The good: Broadcast and receive info

The bad: Restriction of thought to 140 characters

Realisation: More time for all else, with better use of Twitter

Close to 45,000 tweets stand proof to my five-year-old addiction to Twitter. When I was told that I had to take a week off the medium, I said “yes, sure, why not,” barely giving it a thought. Seven days off Twitter: I can do that, I told myself. However, minutes after I had deleted the application from my phone, I realised just how difficult my week was going to be.

Being prone to checking my Twitter each time I felt the need to twiddle my thumbs, the first two days were the hardest. There was a permanent itch to broadcast everything that was going on around me. I wanted to know what others were talking about. What’s more, Twitter was where I learned the news. The itch, it seemed, was impossible to slake. But thankfully, I did resist it.

I was suddenly more productive at work; I had the time and, more importantly, the urge to read a lot more books than I normally would have; I didn’t constantly look into my phone when I was out with friends and family; and perhaps, the best outcome of this break was that I rediscovered the ability to think in more than 140 characters.

Now that the sabbatical is over, I am looking forward to being back, but hopefully I’ll be able to use Twitter more efficiently than I previously did. But worry not, for if there’s an opportunity for a bad joke, I’m not letting it pass!


24-year-old Chartered Accountant and recovering Twitter-addict

What: Facebook

The good: Sharing information

The bad: Forget to connect in real-time

Realisation: Okay to be disconnected virtually and connected in real life

A week away from Facebook? Sure, what’s the big deal? I can do that. So I thought. I didn’t know I was a Facebook fan (I do not like the word ‘addict’!) until I stepped off it. I can say that I survived a week without social networking but it sure was painful and frustrating.

I mostly use Facebook to get interesting links, stories and hilarious memes. Off late, on the internet and particularly on Facebook, a lot of memes have been appearing and quite frankly they’re hilarious. From political cartoons to pop culture, they have it all. I like sharing those with friends who would like them, or relate to them. I just think it has the ability to lift someone’s mood when they’re having a lousy day.

I went for seven days without Facebook and had to control myself every morning to not log in. I’m sure that’s the first or second tab on everyone’s browser when they reach work. While I was away from Facebook, I found time to read more and be more productive. There are times when you just sit and scroll down Facebook looking for something interesting. But, since I was off Facebook I decided to find some material myself. I also found myself listening to more music when I was off Facebook.

Another thing, which I never thought would happen, was, when I was on Facebook I’d forget to talk to people in person. The week I was away, I actually took the effort to go around and speak to people. I even called up a few friends whom I hadn’t spoken to in ages and caught up with them. By Day five, I forgot that I even had Facebook on my tab. I didn’t need to log in; instead, I just called up people and spoke to them.

A week-long hiatus taught me that being disconnected from ‘Newsfeed’ and information is OKAY. And probably meeting friends, talking to them in person is so much better than a random ping on Facebook.


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Printable version | Jun 5, 2020 12:33:43 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/nxg/the-social-experiment/article5022051.ece

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