The Blackout: The Effects of a Social Media Blackout on a PR Student

Social media is an important tool for everyone in today’s society. For a young adult, it seems crucial to constantly stay connected. If you’re a young communications professional in the making social media quickly becomes your middle name.

Forgetting about all of this, I accepted a challenge to go at least one week without logging on to Facebook and Twitter. My answer to this challenge was to add an extra week just to prove that I could handle it.

Here’s what I learned about myself, and PR, in the past two weeks:

Where’s the news?

I didn’t realize how much I relied on Twitter for news until I deleted Ubertwitter off of my Blackberry. Normally, I let my traditional media consumption habits fall to the wayside because of social media. The blackout helped to bring a more active media consumer out of me. I visited news websites more often for updates and actually caught myself paying more attention to the 5 o’ clock news. In addition to the Chronicle (which I normally read), I found myself desperately searching for the Daily News to read. In my personal life, I was also absent for a few personal updates via Facebook. I can’t believe I missed a couple of birthdays and relationship status changes! Shame on me, right?

Where are my contacts?

These days, when we make a new friend in person, our first or second instinct is to add them to our social network of choice. PR professionals often add their new professional contacts after a successful networking situation. For the past two weeks, I added no one. I started a list of people to follow last week to make sure that I wasn’t missing out on any potential contacts or hurting any feelings. Also, it was incredibly frustrating to realize that there were some contacts that I could ONLY reach through Facebook or Twitter. I made another list to remember whose phone numbers to get after the blackout.

What’s the joke?

As anyone on Twitter knows, there are inside jokes and news exclusive to the site.  For example, artists give their Twitter fans a sneak peek of new music, and awareness campaigns gain a following on the site. Of course, I received none of the above. For me, this was just a simple case of being out of the loop until a friend would graciously fill me in. However, in the PR industry, failing to monitor the media especially social media can easily lead to an out of control situation.

I had homework before this?

On the bright side, I had more time to actually complete homework, PRSSA duties and more. I also had the opportunity to catch up on all the blogs and television shows (Entourage marathon!) that I had let get away from me. (Ironically, being off of Twitter actually made me miss a lot of the shows I wanted to catch up on. Usually, I would see a tweet about the show to remind me it was on!)

Isn’t there anything else to do?

The downside was clearly boredom. I had no idea how much of my spare time social media actually occupied. Without my favorite procrastination tools, I had nothing but extra time on my hands these past two weeks.

In the end, this blackout was a great reminder of the role social media plays in my life. It did not prove to be a necessity, but it absolutely serves many important purposes. Those functions can help to strengthen personal relationships; as well as help a public relations practitioner effectively do their job. Facebook and Twitter, respectively prove themselves to be irreplaceable in everyday life. I also proved to my challenger (my younger brother) that I could make it without Facebook and Twitter.  My real question is, in this day and age, why would anyone want to?

Nikki Croney PRSSA’s PR Director