Is Social Media Making Us Unproductive? How Facebook Could Be Costing the Economy Billions

Rahmat Gul/AP

Mindlessly clicking open Facebook while at work is a common vice for many modern employees. According to NBC News, in the 12 years since Facebook's launch, our pokes and likes have lost $3.5 trillion in productivity. 

Facebook has over 1.6 billion monthly users, and since 2009, collectively, people have spent over 55 million years browsing the platform, NBC News reported. If those users instead spent that time working for the minimum wage of $7.25, it would have totaled to about $900 billion in hypothetical labor last year. 

Social media has been compared to addiction, and a study by the University of Maryland found that 18% of users can only last a few hours before having to check Facebook — that ended up as an estimated quarter of their workday, according to Inc

Read more: 8 Hilariously Honest Buttons Social Media Needs Instead of "Like"
Rahmat Gul/AP

In 2012, social media's cost to the U.S. economy was $650 billion, or about $4,452 per company, Mashable reported. At that time, people were spending 22% of their online time on social networking sites, and taking about 23 minutes to get back on productive track. 

Frequently checking Facebook might also have a psychological toll on workers. A 2014 study found that many people's moods lower after scrolling around Facebook rather than the normal Internet due to social comparison with our virtual acquaintances, the Chicago Tribune found. The same study also found that 9% of Facebook activity was actually person-to-person communication, most was just empty content. However, other research indicates that some feel like Facebook is a mood enhancer, offering a break from the daily grind, Forbes reported. 


A 2014 study also found that our affinity for social networking might actually be depleting someone's analytical skills since they're flooded with information that requires no actual thinking, Inc reported.

Still, some savvy companies are integrating social media as a means to better connect their employees for increased collaboration, Bloomberg reported. 

To keep up productivity pace, consider setting time limits to check Twitter or Facebook, or to completely delete access to them from all devices at work, the Guardian reported. Or use technology against technology by downloading apps like SelfControl or Freedom, which help concentration by blocking out online distractions.