Students Start Facebook Detox

Two students at the University of Victoria take the first step towards overcoming an online addiction shared by millions.
By Sarah Megan Porter, 2 December 2009

Social Networking sites have become rooted into the lives of teens and young adults world-wide. The release of the instant messenger service in 1995 changed a young adult’s view on the use of the internet forever, but it wasn’t until social networking sites began to surface only a few short years ago that billions of users, from children to adults, began to depend more heavily of the new form of contact and communication. Now it’s almost become second-nature when turning on a computer or phone to log into those favoured network accounts to check for updates – Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, etc.

“What did we do before Facebook? I mean, it hasn’t even been around that long.” Said Jessica Milliken, a first-year student at the University of Victoria. “I don’t even know my friends’ e-mails. I just message them on Facebook.” Milliken, along with fellow first-year and room-mate Kendra Lordly, proposed and began what they called a Facebook detox project, effective to run throughout the end of semester exams.
Milliken, speaking on behalf of both girls, said they were both self-proclaimed Facebook-addicts, checking their messages and updates from computers and phones at any chance they’d get. The detox worked as with any addiction, to cut them off from the source of the habit. Milliken and Lordly exchanged and changed each other’s account passwords, effectively cutting themselves off.

“It’s hard; you realize just how addicting it really is then.” Said Milliken, thirty-six hours in. “I’m used to just checking between classes. Now I have nothing to do.”

Milliken and Lordly ran the project alone, but were given support from the students of the Ravenhill dorm where they resided on the university campus. “Everyone knew we were doing the detox, so no one would bring their computers with Facebook into our room.” Milliken said.

Milliken said they were surprised to find they were able to finish twice the amount of homework and studying than during the semester as they had nothing to distract them. However, she said she began to find her free time more trying. “Kendra and I started updating our statuses on Twitter like every five minutes. It got to the point where we were just sitting on Twitter all day instead. So it ended up we just switched from one to the other.” Said Milliken four days after the detox had ended.

Milliken and Lordly both gave in a week short of their winter break goal, and Milliken said she admits they could have done better. In total the girls ran approximately 100 hours of their detox, which is more than could be said for the majority of Facebook’s 350 million users.

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