Social Media

The fourth major obstacle to productivity in Mush Monday’s list is social media. Who would have thought that something that was once so looked down upon would now be one of the most widespread epidemics when it comes to time wasting? It wasn’t that long ago that this growing addiction was considered to be an activity for people that just had too much time on their hands. No one felt there was any valid use for social media and thought they were simply a tool for shy or lazy people that were too awkward to do things in person.

However, times change. Social media outlets have become the most-abused objects of our time in this society. Be that as it may, the problem is not the tool itself, but how the tool is used. Social media is great to keep in touch, to stay up-to-date on the activities and major events of friends and family, to be aware of current events, and to improve your business’ reach. All things considered, it is a great asset from a professional and personal point of view. Still, we as humans overindulge in things that we like, and this case is no different.

The importance of social media to our lives is undeniable. We use it for everything, whether it is personal or work-related. Most jobs and businesses rely heavily on this tool to manage, work, and advertise, regardless of staff size. Every company’s workforce can be connected from the inside out. It makes everything quicker. Information flies through the employees, files are shared, any pertinent questions can be answered within minutes, and customers can be instantly heard and responded to.

Whether we like it or not, social media is a necessary evil today. It used to be all about connecting people to other people. Now it also connects companies to customers, and employees to employers. A new world is here due to this phenomenon. Employers even recommend or demand the creation of Facebook groups for their staff, for example. They use it as a way to disseminate information and schedule appointments or meetings. One might expect the productivity of these companies to rise through the roof. But does it? There are two sides of this topic we will discuss.

Is Social Media Harmful to Productivity?

There is no way to navigate around this topic without stating the obvious. Yes. Social media is harmful to our productivity. Recent studies show that employees spend around two to three hours per day on social media outlets while at work. Taking into account that the average workday ranges from eight to ten hours, that is roughly a quarter or a third of the time. Imagine: you own a medium-sized or large company with a handful of employees and instead of working full time, they are actually putting in the effort of a part-time employee. In the long run, that is a huge amount of wasted time that could be used to grow and improve your team or business.

A quick side note – recent statistics show that a company with a thousand employees wasting an hour a day cruising around their social media profiles would endure a $35 million loss per year. Needless to say, this is a costly time sink for your employees to indulge in.

Everyone should be aware of this loss of productivity due to social media access. And you, the employee spending your workday on social media outlets, it isn’t fair to your employer or yourself. Instead of improving yourself and earning the merits for your job, you are wasting it on your digital profile. Is that productive? Not at all. Work might be boring or stressful, but we must always strive to be better.

We are not paid to keep our digital personas up to date. If you were the proud owner of a struggling business, or of a business just getting by, would you be satisfied with your staff just watching time going by? Absolutely not. We, as people, must always look for ways to improve, and, in order to improve we need to be productive. There is only so much time to get things done. Let’s use it wisely.

The Instant Gratification Addiction

What truly makes social media such a productivity killer is our constant need of gratification. Most of us lack the mental strength to resist the urge to indulge in things that make us feel good. That is a common fact. If not, there wouldn’t be so many different addictions in today’s world.

One of the most common instant gratification elements used today is food. When we eat, we feel good. Many people become obese due to the level of gratification that food offers. It triggers a response in our brains that makes us feel good, and we are ultimately addicted to that feeling of goodness. We often justify that extra cookie or that second or third serving. Our brain tricks us into thinking we deserve that reward.

Many New Year’s resolutions like dieting or exercising end up abandoned within a month. Why does that happen? When we work hard, limit our food intake, or exercise at the gym, our brains seeks gratification for this effort, and sometimes that gratification wrecks our progress. It is human nature, and it applies to many other addictions like tobacco, drugs, video games, etc.

Monitoring our digital profiles elicits the same response from our brain. We post something and we anxiously wait for other people’s likes or shares. It is an example of instant gratification that hooks our brain, even though it is fake. With the huge growth of social media’s impact on our lives, it becomes even more addicting. We constantly battle to have the sweetest and coolest profile, the wittiest responses, or the most beautiful photographs in order to fish those likes and trigger our brain’s response.

The problem, however, isn’t the need for the gratification. It is a natural response to crave it. The problem is the amount of time that we expend in order to achieve it. If, instead of working on our digital fame, we would instead direct those efforts toward the progression of our careers, education, or well-being, then we would actually achieve goals that would be long-lasting.

A long-lasting sense of gratification is what changes us at our core. Trying to capture two minutes of happiness will only last exactly that. Two minutes. However, if we use our time in a more productive manner, that happiness will last for years to come. Imagine learning a new language instead of spending two hours a day browsing the web. It may not feel like a great accomplishment at first, but a few years later, from where do you think you will reap the rewards? An old Facebook profile or a whole new skill in your arsenal?

The Effects of Social Media on Self-Perception

Our self-perception is one of the most pressing and constant problems. We are our own worst critics. We look at every photo of ourselves in a harsher way than other people do. After all, beauty is subjective. Our first instinct, however, is to diminish ourselves. Social media escalated this even further, and we end up wasting too much time trying to look our absolute best.

In pursuit of the best-looking profile picture and digital lifestyle, people spend hours and hours taking photos from the perfect angle or position and with the right filters. A photo is not just a photo anymore. It must be perfect. A Tweet must be funny and shared by others.

Nowadays, this pressure is unbearable. Many people invest most of their day trying to be perfect online, which results in depression and anxiety if their efforts aren’t met with delight. All of this adds to our self-perception and later on translates into bigger insecurities and even more dependency on approval.

Aside from the mental effects this causes, there is also the time factor again. Creating the perfect online persona is a full-time job on its own. Can a person that devotes thirty hours or more per week on maintaining his or her cool social media profile have time to invest in their self-growth? Quite impossible. Is this a productive way to use time? Not in a million years.

Social Media as a Productive Tool

Now that we have talked about how unproductive social media is, we should also point out that it isn’t always the case. With the rise and dependency on this new aspect of our lives, new jobs and ways of self-sustainment have risen. Positions like social media managers – unheard of a few years ago – are currently coveted jobs. New careers have emerged from YouTube fads or popular Tweets, etc. It has opened doors for “nobodies” to reach stardom without actually being stalked by the paparazzi.

These cases were born from the necessity that came with the rise of social media. However, one sector was heavily influenced by and benefitted from this: marketing. Statistics show that salesmen that are active in five or more social networks make more money than those who barely use these networks as a tool. The old methods of phoning people, selling door to door, spreading flyers, etc., are steadily becoming obsolete. What brings in sales now is being a sort of celebrity that puts out products for people to buy or a reliable salesman that can explain and sell products comfortably through the web.

However, this doesn’t only apply to people that sell products for a living. Many professions can/need/should implement the sales component into their skills. Another side effect of the growth of social media is the reach that you can build through them and the amount of clients that you can acquire. Freelancing, for example, is also a growing field. People have always been doing stand-alone tasks for employers, but now you can build your clientele with clever networking. You can sell your services (e.g., writing, translating, web design, coding, photography, tutoring), reach potential customers, market your skillset, etc. Many people work from home due to the boom of social media.

From this perspective, networking and building your online brand becomes a tool to increase your productivity. Then all you need is to balance your personal networking with your brand’s.

Time to Unplug

Hopefully, you will now have a better idea of the harm that social media can cause you in many regards, particularly your productivity. As it was mentioned above, indulging in a few brief sessions to kill time and catch up with your friends is perfectly normal. Yet, taking it to the extreme and trying to recreate yourself as a whole new person online may damage you. We must not forget that we are all unique. And what differentiates us the most is how productive we are regarding our self-development. We need to evolve into better people to truly feel unique every day of the year.

The best way to keep yourself out of this constant loop is to unplug. Devote your time to improving yourself. Learn new skills. Master old ones. Meet people in real life. Instead of liking a random photo, why not call the person directly and say that you like his/her photo? There is a whole world out there that people are forgetting even exists. It may sound like an old-fashioned thing to say, but it is true. Technology is supposed to improve our way of living, but not by replacing our interactions or our development. The person that needs to be improved is not your digital self, but the real you. Don’t look for time sinks. Invest your time in a productive manner and become better. You. Not the online you.

There are a few ways to control the need to constantly check up on your social media profiles, but it demands discipline and will. For starters, make a conscious effort to unplug from the virtual world. Try to detach yourself from the dependency of your digital self. Focus on real progress. Start out by making an active effort for a month. Go out and meet people, join activities, give it your all at work. In a month, that strong need of approval from strangers on the Internet will start to fade away. Set a time limit on yourself for social media updates. If you are heavily addicted to it and think that you can’t control yourself, log out of all networks. Every time that you feel the urge to go back to it, fight. Lastly, fill your schedule with activities that help you grow. When we learn new things or enjoy new activities, our brain receives a new rush. Enjoy that rush!

Don’t try to portray an alternate version of you online. Instead, become that person in real life. Read the HOW section for a more detailed approach!