Social Networking on B-School Campuses: A Necessary Evil
Take a bunch of 20-something MBA students, confine them in a god-forsaken campus located diagonally opposite to the most happening place in the city and leave them with a laptop and 24-hour wifi. More often than not, you would find a majority of them hooked on to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Blogspot, Wordpress or some other social networking sites (the ones who are a little slow to follow the herd, may still be secretly checking their Orkut account).
Why then the faculty and administrative staff consider social media as a diversion rather than using it as a tool? Is it our age-old predilection of instinctively saying “NO” to any kind of change? Or is it simply the generation gap, which makes the previous generation uncomfortable with technology and since they can’t trust the students to use social media responsibly, they vociferously endorse a blanket ban on it? And really since when has a blanket ban worked? In a batch where more than 70% of the students are engineers and are from the school of techie geeks, navigating through restricted websites is child’s play which only adds to the pleasure.
The question then, is how B-schools can use social media as an instrument to engage students rather than treating it as a distraction from which students have to be protected. Nikhil Gupta, a 2011 pass-out from the Indian Business School Hyderabad, says, “Like most tools, social media is a double-edged sword, which can be a potentially effective tool or completely self-destructive. While it can be used for increasing student and alumni networking or inviting active participation in professor-moderated discussions/ debates/ research, it can also be misused by students for frivolous activities like chats or addictive games.” Thus, the debate ranges not on WHETHER social media should be allowed, but rather, HOW it should be implemented.
Further, according to Rahul Bagati from Goa Institute of Management, “Social Media is here to stay for two reasons. One, social media is just another medium of communications and students can easily identify with it. Two, we are looking at a marketplace which will be driven by social networking. Rather than banning social networking, colleges should actually promote social networking through proper courses. Most college events are being marketed through social networking and so are many products.” His views are echoed by B-schools abroad where renowned institutes like Spain's ESADE and France's INSEAD are now researching and teaching about the use of social media in business, while integrating the subject into the academic setting. Further, IIM Calcutta started using Twitter for breaking news, blog links to CAT and campus-placement updates.
Thus, the key to introduction of social media on campuses is responsible usage rather than indiscriminate usage. But while a forced embargo is not a solution, the authorities need to overcome the natural aversion to social media and educate the students regarding the potential risks.
Like it or not, social media is the opium for this generation. It’s up to us to not get addicted, it’s up to us to make it our slave and not vice-versa and it’s up to us to use it and not abuse it.
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