The growth of social networking continues to spiral out of control, leading sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to become as important to us as our newspapers.
There are three big differences between social networking and other forms of media: accessibility, participation, and live updates. These differences have led to many employees wasting time at work getting their latest fix.
In 2006, I recall a few colleagues becoming ‘facehooked’. At the time I had not joined the revolution, and did not understand the distraction that seemed to be on offer. Productivity was dropping, and some of our best people were underperforming. Our employer blocked the site, much to the dissatisfaction of those that wished to use it. The effect was positive for business as results improved, but employees were left disgruntled.
In the past two years, the growth of the smart phone market has made social networking sites even more accessible. I have heard certain businesses now insist that mobile phones are kept out of site during working hours. This is, of course, not practical in all professions.
The big question that comes to my mind is why do individuals lack so much self discipline?
Employees have entered into a contract to carry out certain duties, and I have never seen a contract in which an employer requires employees to entertain themselves regularly to keep their morale high. However, some people now feel like it is their right and do not even attempt to hide their wrongdoing.
LinkedIn is branded as the business networking tool, and it is certainly changing the way that businesses recruit. It can also be used as a good tool to gain information from your professional network. But use must be carried out in a disciplined way. All of the social networking sites are laid out in a way that is designed to distract and keep you on the site for as long as possible to maximise your exposure to their sponsors. This is how they make money.
I have found a few effective methods to help me get more out of these sites than they get out of me.
Set up a separate webmail account (e.g. email@example.com). Use this address for all of your social networking accounts to ensure that update emails do not clutter your main inboxes and can be managed in your own time.
When you go online, do so with a purpose or task. Perhaps you wish to find articles related to your current project. Find them, read them, and log out. Don’t be distracted by the ‘people you may know’ or ‘whose been looking at your profile’ tabs. These will suck you in and eat your time.
Set aside a fixed amount of time on a regular basis to update your profile, have a browse, be nosey, and do the things that we love about these sites. Do this in your own time at home; it’s better for your career.
Remove the apps from your phone. Your phone spends more time with you than anything else. It can imprison you if it is set up in the wrong way.
Remember, the majority of information on these sites is of low quality. If it were food, it would be McDonalds - quickly prepared, convenient and appealing, but without much nutritional value. It is easy to fall into the habit of over-consuming social media, but this will not be of long-term benefit to your career.