NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

May 31, 2011

Driven to distraction

"A new Facebook app is coming out that will remind users exactly what they were doing a year ago from that day," comedian Conan O'Brien observed the other night during his monologue. "Nine times out of 10, the answer will be, 'Wasting your time on Facebook.'"

Indeed, a recent survey by market research firm uSamp concluded that "the proliferation of collaboration and social tools designed to increase productivity is actually costing businesses millions of dollars per year in lost productivity."

Between checking for email, text messages, tweets and Facebook updates, the survey found, "45 percent of employees work only 15 minutes or less without getting interrupted and 53 percent waste at least one hour a day due to all types of distractions."

Good thing they didn't have this technology in Ebenezer Scrooge's day.

Yaacov Cohen, CEO of email vendor harmon.ie, told PC World, "This survey paints a picture of a highly distracted workplace with a particular irony: Information technology that was designed at least in part to save time is actually doing precisely the opposite. The very tools we rely on to do our jobs are also interfering with that mission. We're clearly seeing what psychologists call 'online compulsive disorder' spill over from our personal lives to the work environment."

Indeed, the Providence Journal recently observed in an editorial that "as with video slot machines, the ease of online access and lack of direct, messy human interaction are addictive. We have become guinea pigs for determining the long-term effects of electronically encouraged isolation — and the limits of time-wasting."

Not only that, but there are a number of cases pending involving workers who have been disciplined for using their time on Facebook and other social networking sites to criticize their employers.

It's a strange new world in which we live and work. We're waiting for the first person to call in sick with a case of OCD.

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