Can you live without a computer for a day?

More than 50,000 have pledged not to use their computers Saturday.

Tiff Clements

Some college students can’t go minutes without Facebook.

Michael Taylor and Denis Bystrov of Montreal are concerned that the global connectivity afforded by the Internet detracts from local relationships.

“We find that when we look at teenagers, they spend so much time on the computer, we worry that they are missing out on the real world,” Taylor said.

Taylor and Bystrov have concocted an Internet campaign to get people around the globe off their computers for a day – shutdownday.org.

The site allows visitors to choose whether they feel they can survive this coming Saturday without computers. As of Thursday evening, more than 52,000 people worldwide said they would.

Taylor said he hopes the number will reach 100,000.

He said the idea came about over lunch with Bystrov, a computer programmer.

“He was saying he never gets a day where he can leave his computer and shut it down,” Taylor said. “He thought it’d be great if on one day everybody could just turn it off and remember the more important things in life.”

He said the event has garnered attention from news sources across the globe and people in more than 200 countries have visited the site.

Thomas Misa is the director of the Charles Babbage Institute, a University center that researches the history and impact of information technology. He said computers and personal technologies like cell phones and iPods have become unavoidable.

“It’s like anything else, you probably only notice something when it’s not there,” he said. “Because it’s become so pervasive, you almost need some sort of provocation like this to sort of shock people into thinking, ‘Yeah that’s right, I’m really plugged in.’ “

Misa said he likes Taylor and Bystrov’s idea, but said some people use the technologies as social aids.

“This kind of electronic mediation of personal relationships both helps out relationships and may also subvert them,” he said.

According to Bernard Gulachek, director of the Office of Information Technology, there are approximately 60,000 active computer network connections across the University’s Twin Cities campus.

He said it is difficult to know how many computers University staff, faculty and students use because they are purchased by individual departments and not cataloged by a central department.

Art and art history sophomore Drake McDougall said he wouldn’t have any problem powering down Saturday.

“I went through spring break looking at a computer about three times,” he said.

He added that Florida sunshine might have made going without technology a bit easier.

McDougall said he thinks social network sites like Facebook help students stay in touch when snow and cold make it unpleasant outside.

“It kind of makes winter bearable,” he said.

Senior microbiology student Matt Skinner said going without a computer for a day wouldn’t be too challenging.

“I don’t really know anybody who has to be with a computer,” he said.

Taylor said he plans to organize feedback about Shutdown Day on the Web site.

“After Shutdown Day, we’ll invite people to give us their comments on how their experience went,” he said. “If the response is positive to that, we’ll organize one for the following year.”