Non Productivity

Facebook at Work?

A study published in November 2018 concluded that Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram have negative effects on personal well-being, with increased rates of depression and loneliness the two big ones. The authors, all from the University of Pennsylvania, wrote:

“Using less social media than you normally would leads to significant decreases in both depression and loneliness. These effects are particularly pronounced for folks who were more depressed when they came into the study.”

Hunt stresses that the findings do not suggest that 18- to 22-year-olds should stop using social media altogether. In fact, she built the study as she did to stay away from what she considers an unrealistic goal. The work does, however, speak to the idea that limiting screen time on these apps couldn’t hurt.

“It is a little ironic that reducing your use of social media actually makes you feel less lonely,” she says. But when she digs a little deeper, the findings make sense. “Some of the existing literature on social media suggests there’s an enormous amount of social comparison that happens. When you look at other people’s lives, particularly on Instagram, it’s easy to conclude that everyone else’s life is cooler or better than yours.”

If we accept those findings at face value for now – there are other studies to consider too that will have to be left for another day – the question is whether the above effects and recommendations apply to social media-like tools at work – such as Workplace by Facebook, Slack, and Yammer, among many others. It’s interesting to note WHY the researchers concluded these effects happened: social comparison, and concluding that everyone else’s life is cooler or better than yours. Since consumer-oriented social media services offer a highlights reel of life (or an unrealistic and non-reality-based view of what life is actually like), social comparison by virtue of use is almost inevitable. “She’s going on a better holiday than I did this year.” “He has a new gadget and I don’t.” Trying to figure out your tribe, your group, and how you relate to those you directly know and aspire to be like will, frequently, lead to you seeing those who are better off than you but being blind to those who are not. Net effect: you come to believe you’re a loser.

But this raison d’etre for consumer-oriented social media services isn’t the driving reason for social media-like tools at work. At home, it’s play. At work, it’s work and learning. At home, there’s a carefully modulated algorithm to put “the right stuff” in your newsfeed. At work, the stream of updates may be targeted based on interests, but it’s not attempting to manipulate or only reinforce current perspectives. At work, there’s not usually a bunch of advertisers (and democracy-undermining agents either) creating a curated newsfeed to push all the right buttons based on micro-understanding of each person. And at work, it’s not a driver of social comparison at the consumer level, because while comparisons are made between people in professional and work settings, there’s generally (not always) more of a sense of equality of opportunity. If you want it, go do the work to earn it.

This is not to say that enterprise social networks are without their share of drawbacks. They do have their share of problems and challenges, but social comparison leading to depression is not a high ranking concern. But given the increased cadence of interruptions and disruptions that many of these platforms create, perhaps we could re-write the first paragraph – as a hypothesis of course – highlighting this problem:

“Spending less time on enterprise social networks than you normally would leads to significant decreases in both interruptions and lack of focus. These effects are particularly pronounced for folks who were more interrupt-prone when they came into the study.” (hypothetical conclusion by Michael Sampson)

What’s added reinforces what already is. That makes sense to me.

Categories: Non Productivity