Written by Fanny Wolte
What are the moments that stay in your memory forever, the moments you think back many times? Is it the one time you got hundreds of likes on one of your posts? Was it when you realized you had thousands of followers? Or was it the time when your post was shared hundred or thousand times? Probably these events are not those that came to your mind. They did not stay in you memory as life changing events.
Experiences like becoming a parent, celebrating a special occasion with your relatives and friends, or the first time you rode a bike are those that stay in your memory for a long time and come back to your awareness over and over again.
Apparently, experiences you make in real life with real people, experiencing real things appear to matter much more in the long run than those you make online and in social networks. These are the ones that make your life worth living and contribute to humans’ well-being and satisfaction.
Nevertheless, people spend hours and hours online connecting with other people in the cyberspace rather than going out into the real world meeting people or making memorable experiences. According to Statista (2015), there were 1.79 billion social media users in 2014 worldwide. There is no question anymore that social media and social networking sites are a big part of life today and that they will be in the near future. Therefore, the purpose of this writing is to take a look at some implications, positive and especially negative, these technological advances have brought along. It is important to be aware of them so that you can make sure that they do not impact what you experience offline in a negative way.
The Bright Side of Social Media: Ease and Empowerment for Consumers
Undoubtedly, there are many good things that the development of technology and the rise of the Web 2.0 and social media have brought to every day’s life. For consumers it has made life much easier in utilitarian terms of seeking information fast, comparing offers, buying from other parts of the world, but also in private terms of communicating with friends, talking about events or products and staying in touch with people all over the world.
Other important improvements from a consumer perspective, which came about with the rise of Web 2.0, highlighted by Hennig-Thurau, Hofacker and Bloching (2013, p.238), are the “… increased active participation and a strong level of networked interconnectedness”, which ultimately results in the often-mentioned empowerment of consumers. In the past, consumers had to be satisfied with the content, products and services companies offered and promoted.
Today, everybody on social media and within these networks can participate in the creation and promotion of brands, offers, products, services, etc. This shift in power is so groundbreaking that it is considered “… the most fundamental change in the history of marketing, even more dramatic than the historic shift from a product orientation to a market orientation” by Wind (2008, p.21). While this sounds dramatic from a marketing standpoint, from a consumer standpoint it means that finally their voices are heard and that they can get what they need and want and not what other people think they need or want. The distribution of power has shifted and is now more equally spread.
The Dark Side of Social Media: Decreased Productivity and Well-Being
While the mentioned improvements to life sound stunning, all these advantages come at an expense. In order to experience and make use of these benefits people have to be connected through some kind of device in order to participate in networks like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube but also to use Amazon or Google.
According to an article in Business News Daily written by Mileach (2013), the average social media user spends 23 hours each week on emailing, texting, and other social media activities and online communication. It is important to keep in mind that this number dates back two years. It is reasonable to assume that this amount of time has just increased since then and with the development and introduction of even more social media platforms.
This vast amount of time spent online already implies one significant drawback of the connectedness experienced today. People are lacking this time for other activities they could do away from their devices in real life.
There are two factors in the far-reaching context of social media that I would like to discuss in this writing, namely the influence of social media on humans’ productivity and well-being. These are two aspects that can be seen from two different perspectives. On the one hand, there are people arguing for a positive evolution of these two factors because of the rise of social media, but there are also voices representing an opposing view. Since most written statements present social media in a favorable light, I would like to draw attention to the negative implications to raise awareness and to challenge people to see these elements from a different perspective. In order to discuss social media’s impact on productivity I decided to take a closer look at students and the working force where the use of the Internet is widely spread. For humans’ well-being I did not make such a sharp distinction between groups due to a high similarity of social media’s influence.
I’m not distracted; I’m just on Facebook
Let us first take a look at students and their productivity in relation to social media.
Social media is often praised for saving time and promoting productivity and efficiency. But in many cases it can also result in decreased productivity because of a distracting function (Brooks, 2015).
The best example that comes to my mind in this context is the dominance of social media in the lives of college students and their daily routines. The feeling of being required to be reachable all the time is commonplace. It is inevitable and many times very disturbing.
The argument that it would not be possible to complete a Master Degree Program at Lund University without having a Facebook account and being online at least a couple of hours a day is not taken from too far away. Information about courses, exams, assignments, classes, etc. is distributed through these social networks, as well as through email and an online platform.
In addition, students discuss and complete assignments by communicating through social media, especially Facebook. Students would miss out on most academic and social happenings if they did not have an account or did not spend adequate time online.
Especially when it gets to the end of a study period when assignments have to be turned in and papers have to be corrected and proof read, the time a student is required to spend online is immense. Every other minute there is the sound of incoming messages that need to be resolved as soon as possible. These disruptions actually hinder students in being the most productive and efficient they can be.
Most time is lost not just because of the attention shift towards the interrupting message or information but especially afterwards because it might take as much as 25 minutes, according to Czerwinski, Cutrell and Horvitz (2000), to reach the same mental stage as before the distraction. Therefore, the thought ‘I just check this message on Facebook real quick and then go back to what I was working on’ is not feasible. Even without noticing, the student loses time by checking incoming messages, and probably even more time once he or she starts focusing again.
What do you do at work, besides your job?
A similar phenomenon also takes place in the working world. The increased use of the Internet and social media for working purposes gave birth to terms like ‘cyberloafing’ and ‘cyberslacking’. These words describe the activity of using the Internet for purposes that are not work related but take place during working hours (Lim, 2002). This form of distraction decreases productivity no matter if it takes place at the office or at home. A survey conducted by Blanchard and Henle (2008) showed how rampant this behavior of doing something else online while working is. About 90 percent of the respondents stated that they spend time on non-work emailing and visiting news sites, while 70 percent shop online during office hours, just to name the top three non-work related activities of this study by Blanchard and Henle (2008).
In addition to this source of distraction, an increasing number of companies offer flexible working hours and supply their employees with laptops or smartphones in order to give them more freedom but also with the expectations that they will end up working more. Of course this trend is partly due to the technology that is available today and not solely caused by the Internet. Nevertheless, some technological advancements might not have happened if it were not for the use of social media. Therefore, many times employees decide to take work home from the office with the intent of getting it done during their free time. While this idea sounds like a good plan in theory, it often does not work out that way because of occurring family matters or other unintended incidents. In this situation productivity decreases even more because there are other distracting components in addition to ‘cyberslacking’. As a result, work cannot be completed efficiently or in the highest quality possible.
In Part 2 of this post you will be able to find out how social media might impact your well-being and therefore lowers your quality of life. So, keep reading!