The real impact of social networking while at work
As many of you may know, I have been unemployed since April 2008. Granted, I did take a year “off” to return to school and complete my degree. But the fact is that I have not seen a paycheck (or any benefits that come along with one) in 18 months. When I started back to school a little over a year ago I found that all of my 20-something classmates used Facebook to keep in touch with each other. Desiring to better understand this younger generation that I’d likely be working with again soon, I signed myself up. I surprisingly discovered a number of people my age that were already on Facebook and quickly amassed a list of 150 or so “friends.” Since then, I hit Facebook once every other day or so to see what’s happening. For the most part it has been a good way to stay in touch with people I know and re-connect with old friends.
The problem started this summer. As school was winding to a conclusion I was franticly trying to find a decent job. The economy was not helping and I found myself sliding into fall while watching my meager funds dwindle to nothing. The clock was ticking and looming financial ruin was clearly visible on the horizon. Even though I was no longer preoccupied with school and had plenty of free time on my hands, I resisted the urge to engage in any more serious social networking to pass the time than my usual daily Flickr posting and occasional Facebook lurking. Recently I started noticing that a surprising number of my FB contacts were constantly posting meaningless status updates throughout the day (as in twice an hour or more). It’s like a form of electronic stream of conscience for some people. I can imagine them now, thinking an amusing thought then spending the next 10 minutes cleverly composing, researching, taking pictures, creating tinyurl links, editing, and posting their status update or tweet.
It infuriates me that these folks are completely taking advantage of their jobs like this. I feel that they are not only disrespecting their employers but also me personally. It’s like they have zero appreciation for their cushy jobs, steady paychecks, insurance, nice computers, unlimited internet access, free Friday lunches, etc. while meanwhile, I’m worried about how I will be able to pay my rent next month and trying to explain to my daughters why they can’t have new shoes for school. And it’s not just me. Right now there are nearly 15 million people unemployed in the US. That’s 15 million people that used to have a job and now don’t- most of which would give anything for one of those cushy jobs with a steady paycheck, insurance, nice computer, unlimited internet access, free Friday lunches, etc. Instead, they sit around uselessly job hunting and reading all their friends’ status updates about how bad work sucks, or how hard they partied last night, or about the latest game they bought, or that funny website they just found with all the redneck wedding pictures, and then look at pictures of $8 cups of coffee, $25 “business” lunches and all the shenanigans associated with company-paid trips to exotic destinations they can fondly remember visiting themselves but wondering if they ever will again.
So, workplace productivity issues aside, there’s also a significant yet subtle human impact component to social networking to consider. Think about this the next time you feel the urge to share your thoughts about something you just read/discussed/thought that clearly has nothing to do with the productive work you should be doing from 9 to 5. Your job is not an entitlement and most of you would lose it right now if your boss knew what you were doing with your time on the clock… except maybe reading this ;-)
Me? I used to turn a blind eye when I saw people wasting time at work on-line as long as they met their deadlines. I will have another job someday soon and you can bet that I’ll have a lot more appreciation for the opportunity it provides and greater consideration for those that are not as fortunate. And, I’ll demand the same from the people that work for me. Why? Because it’s the right thing to do and somebody’s got to do it. I’m not saying social networking is a bad thing. I’m just saying there’s a time and a place and you should think before you tweet.