Students pushed to ‘unplug’


Photo by Will Huang
Photo by Will Huang

A new initiative at Wilfrid Laurier University is encouraging the campus community to start considering the way they use technology in a more mindful and meaningful way.

Laurier Unplugged had their inaugural event Thursday morning in the Hawk’s Nest, where staff and students were invited to participate in a meet-and-greet with the initiative’s founders.

“We realized from a faculty perspective, we noticed in our classes that our students were tied to digital technology in ways that sometimes impeded their learning, and then we also discovered that students realize this about themselves,” said Markus Poetzsch, an associate professor in the department of English.

Accordingly, the initiative was founded by the efforts of four students and three faculty members at Laurier.

Students Taylor Aitken, Jessica Amaro, Sarahjayne Benedict and Erica Carusi, met regularly with professors Maria DiCenzo, Jonathan Finn and Poetzsch to discuss the possibility of starting the initiative.

The involvement of student input, coupled with regular meetings and discussion eventually led to the formation of the on-campus initiative.

Laurier Unplugged’s aim is not to discourage the use of all electronics, but rather to encourage the “mindful usage of social media and technology,” said founding member Aitken, a third-year psychology student at Laurier.

The initiative also goes beyond the use of technology in the classroom. Also, Laurier Unplugged aims to reveal the potential health implications of the over-use of technology.

One of the ways they are going about this, is through collaboration with the Student Wellness Centre to look at possible health implications resulting from the use of technology.

“We’ve talked about ways that we can kind of push this a little bit further, and what’s affecting here on campus the university students’ mental health,” Aitken said.

“And social media is something that always comes up.”

The meet-and-great was organized to introduce staff and students to the initiative while also providing individuals with a place to discuss and communicate with others face-to-face.

“[The initiative hopes to] offer a sense of what people are missing out on by being tied to technology all of the time,” said DiCenzo, a professor in the English department.

Though the event held was organized with Laurier students and staff in mind, Laurier Unplugged hopes their message will resonate with those outside of the campus boundaries.

“It’s a chance for people to educate not just themselves, but the people around them,” DiCenzo said.

“Faculty, staff, students, their families, their friends. Everybody [can benefit].”

The initiative has already looked ahead to possible plans for the future, with ideas on how to persuade students to limit their use of various electronics and social media platforms.

Laurier Unplugged is intent on continuing to share with faculty, staff and students the importance of limiting oneself to technology and social media throughout campus.

“If we can get one student to stop from walking across campus while looking at their screen, we’ve succeeded,” said Finn, chair of the department of communication studies.


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