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Social Media – The Newest Addiction?

February 21, 2020

By Susan Chance, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE 

We often think about young people, and in particular, teenagers, as being negatively affected by social media. However, social media is also having a negative impact on adults, and in some ways, is negatively impacting the workplace.

In this day and age, we worry a lot about addictions to opioids and other drugs, but while it is not likely to be deadly, social media use is also an addiction. One study looked at the habits of 444 Facebook users, and it was discovered that the stress caused by social media leads to social media addiction. Instead of logging out, turning off, or stepping away from social media when the content is stressful, users sought out additional content to distract them from the stress. “As a result, they embed themselves in the social network environment rather than getting away from it, and an addiction is formed.”

The average American spends 1-2 hours per workday on social media. While some employees are using various platforms to network or to push out information on their company, many are using the time for personal reasons, or just getting caught up in the available distractions. If your employees are only working six hours a day, but you are paying them for eight hours, imagine the financial impact social media use has on your bottom line.

Some users with social media addiction stay up late at night surfing through the various sites. Because they are not getting enough sleep, they have difficulty concentrating and staying focused at work, so their performance suffers.

The Pew Research Center conducted a study, “Concerns About the Future of People’s Well-being.” A third of the people who participated in this study felt that the bad will outweigh the good of the digital world over the next 10 years. As the well-being of employees suffers from the negative side of social media use, the well-being of companies will also suffer. Some of the concerns are:

  • Loss of privacy and security

  • Less ability to focus

  • Anxiety and depression (which is already being seen in children, young adults, and college students, which is our future work force)

  • Loneliness

  • Lack of social skills

  • Detrimental change in cognitive skills

  • An increase in attention-deficit disorder

Perhaps the most damaging is the negative impact on critical thinking skills. Consider the challenges that come up in your workplace and how important critical thinking skills are to solving those challenges.

So, what can you do as an employer? The most important thing you can do is to have a social media policy in place. If you don’t have one, make sure you develop a policy and train your managers and staff on that policy. Another study out of Pew showed that employees were 10% less likely to use social media for personal reasons if the company had a social media policy in place.

If your company has an EAP, you may want to see if the provider offers assistance for employees with a social media addiction. This will help with the health and welfare of your employees and your company.

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