When Brittany Siler wants to figure out her Friday plans, she doesn’t log onto Facebook to check which events she signed up for that week. She doesn’t look at her Twitter stream to see what events are trending. She doesn’t pull up Foursquare to learn about the hottest restaurants her friends have been checking into.
Brittany does not, cannot, do any of these, because she does not have accounts on those sites. She doesn’t have an account on any website, in fact, besides Gmail and a Google Plus account — where her only friend is her sister, who posts pictures of her children. Nor does she have a smartphone, opting instead to carry “a little Nokia that was made before common cellphones could access the internet.”
That Siler lives without these “always-on” technologies wouldn’t be particularly strange — millions of Americans live without smartphones, Facebook, or even (gasp) high-speed Internet — were she not a student at NYU, where it seems that every elevator is packed with students on their smartphones, the last time anyone got invited to a party over anything but Facebook was back in high school, and through its various digital initiatives, the university embraces technology with open arms.