Well, I generally come in at least fifteen minutes late, I use the side door – that way Lumbergh can’t see me. After that I just sorta space out for about an hour. Yeah, I just stare at my desk, but it looks like I’m working. I do that for probably another hour after lunch, too. I’d say in a given week I probably only do about fifteen minutes of real, actual, work.
– Peter Gibbons in Office Space
The Internet has certainly brought us a lot of great things; be it information at your fingertips, decentralized news and an expansion of alternative media, email, the ability to connect with people on the other side of the world and SwiftEconomics among other lesser things. But the Internet has also, unfortunately, brought with it an incredible number of mind-numbing ways to waste time; Facebook being the prime example.
As of this writing, Facebook.com garners 145.4 million visitors per month, second in traffic only to Google. Myspace snags another 46.5 million, Twitter comes in with 30 million, LinkedIn puts up 36.5 million and a host of other social networking sites add millions more. Then you got to throw in sites such as YouTube (109 million), PhotoBucket (30 million), DailyMotion (12 million), Cracked (5 million), FunnyOrDie (5 million) and of course, YouPorn (18 million).*
I guess it’s better to be a cyber-socialite who feels like telling me every time you go the bathroom than a video game addict or some computer hacker eating cheese puffs in his mother’s basement… but honestly, that’s not exactly a high standard to live up to. The sheer amount of time people spend on these sites updating their status via cell phone about their drive to work, writing witty remarks on other people’s status’ about their drive to work, installing some random application and whatever spyware it has attached to it, sending mass invitations to some raging drunkfest, joining groups about how much they like going to raging drunkfests or poking someone they want to have sex with is simply becoming ridiculous.
According to Nielsen, the average Facebook user (of which there are more than 400 million) spends 4.5 hours of each month on Facebook. And that doesn’t include time spent on Twitter, Myspace or any other social networking site. Nor does it include watching some dramatic chipmunk on Youtube or visiting a litany of comedy and ‘fail’ sites.
These may be all fun and good, I enjoy ‘Charlie bit My Finger’ as much as the next guy, but how much time do we lose to this kind of stuff? One study concluded that 77% of Facebook users use Facebook while at work. An analysis of the economic damage Web 2.0 is doing is in order.
Luckily for me, a law firm in Britain named Penisula actually attempted to do this. It estimated that Facebook costs Britain 2.8 billion hours of worker productivity each year! The cost ran up to £130 million ($200 million) each day or £47 billion ($73 billion) each year! If that’s true for the United States–which has about five times the population–it would be 14 billion lost hours and $365 billion; or just over 2% of GDP.
Now it’s certainly possible that time wasted on Facebook would just be wasted on other things if Facebook wasn’t around. Instead of discussing important matters by instant messaging, men could go back to ranking their female co-workers by do-ability around the water cooler before shushing to an extraordinarily uncomfortable silence when one of them walks by. And women could go back to talking about… well, you know… ummm… yeah, uhhh… whatever the hell it is that women talk about.
Still, Facebook makes such dazing off (or cyber-slacking as it’s called) much easier. Many companies are now simply blocking the website and others like it. But some advise against this, calling such bans an “overreaction” and saying that it’s “… unreasonable for employers to try to stop their staff from having a life outside work.” They assert that banning these websites hurts morale and thereby does more harm than good. This is the nuclear weapons theory applied to Facebook. Yeah, maybe the world would be better off without nuclear weapons, but since they exist, we can’t just get rid of them. After all, Facebook even has its business uses, such as spamming, I mean networking.
Regardless of the employer’s situation, employees themselves should be careful about these sites. Especially when it comes to posting too much information or pictures of oneself in a ‘compromised’ condition, as the following Facebook ‘Fail’ from Oddee.com makes clear (yeah I know, I’ve become what I hate):
Indeed, bad situations just seem to pop up all the time with Facebook. This post on FMyLife.com makes that pretty clear:
Today, my boyfriend hacked my facebook account and set my status to say that I was in love with my boss. Seeing the post, my boss called me into his office, and told me he loved me too… FML
Now, I have a Facebook account and I’m an active blogger and have spent hours upon end on Youtube (usually watching economics videos, yeah I’m a nerd, I know), so I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. But, honestly, how much more damage, economic and otherwise, can these sites do? Perhaps we should all just take a step back from all these social networking sites and just try talking to each other again (and maybe getting a little work done as well).
*All traffic statistics gathered from www.Quantcast.com