Is Social Media Killing Your Productivity & Earning Potential?

Last weekend, I stood at a local bar with a half-dozen friends. Two of them were using their BlackBerry phones to check e-mails and Facebook, while the rest of us tried to hold a conversation over the loud music blaring from the nearby speaker.

So who do you think was best able to communicate? I think our BlackBerry-ing friends won that one.

Social media usage has increased a thousand-fold over the past two years — Twitter and Facebook are the top dogs, and the revolution has been magnified with the advent of the iPhone. I have tons of friends and family who live and die by their cell phones and computers — it’s all about keeping up with everyone through online chatting, rather than by phone. Even e-mail has become a thing of the past. Who wants to write an electronic letter and wait a whopping hour or two for a response when you can just BlackBerry someone and receive a response in seconds?

My generation — and the ones after — have grown up learning to multitask. First, it was the computer itself, and e-mail. Then, with the advent of the cell phone, texting and PDAs, it became even more ingrained in our lives.

I’ll even go so far to say that personal computers are becoming obsolete. The desktop model gave way to the laptop, but the PDA (personal digital assistant) is a hell of a lot easier to carry than a laptop. The iPhone revolutionized the idea of the handheld computer with Internet access, and the applications make it even more attractive to the younger generation.

The Effect of Social Media
But how much of our productivity is affected by the constant use of social media? Are we losing the ability to truly communicate with others? Some experts say yes, and some say no. A study by Nucleus Research concluded that companies have a 1.5% loss of productivity due to employees who use social networking during office hours. And Psychology Today’s Wired for Success blog cites studies that believe social networking is beneficial to companies.

I believe social media has its pros and cons. I’ve found myself closing out my Facebook and Twitter accounts (which I’m usually logged into 24/7 when I’m at home) in order to better focus on freelance assignments. Social networking tends to kill my productivity, despite my usually-excellent ability to multitask. I suppose I get distracted easily.

On the other hand, social media helps me GET those freelance assignments by talking to other writers and editors through Facebook or LinkedIn. I can also brainstorm with other PF bloggers on Twitter for new posts or use it to promote my blog.

So I can see both sides: certain uses of social media kill productivity and earnings, while there are others who actually get more done and make more money by using it. On which side of the fence do you fall?

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