I love it when a really stupid idea starts to gain traction in the opinion-sphere. The current one is that workers who spend time on Facebook are costing the economy X billions per year.
I first encountered it at a blog called TechBlorge which starts off with uses a very suspect (because it is soooo self-serving) fact from a company and then follows that up with anecdotal evidence:
Social networking site Facebook could cost Australian businesses up to AUS$5 billion (US$4 billion) in lost productivity, according to Internet filtering company, SurfControl. “Our analysis shows that Facebook is the new, and costly, time-waster,” said SurfControl’s Dr Richard Cullen. “There are Facebook groups dedicated to slacking off at work, some of them are specific to employees of a single company.”
This is then followed up with a comment about the number of people in Aussie corporations who the author sees on Facebook. To the author’s credit he then points out a discrepancy in the company’s numbers (“The only problem with this calculation is that currently Facebook has just 224,000 Australian members, not 800,000 members.”). I would have lead with the fact that the company’s numbers make no sense — but that wouldn’t have been nearly as sensational.
Now TechBlorge is a blog and not, as we all know, held up to the standards of accuracy that I’d like to think pervades actual journalism. But wait! What’s this? Good lord, now there are 57 stories on this — each dumber than the last says I without reading barely a one of them. Kudos to SurfControl’s PR people for getting people to swallow this one hook, line, sinker, fishing pole and all.
Let’s ask ourselves two questions:
- Has the amount of time people spend goofing off at work on the computer really increased? Wouldn’t these goofer offers just be doing something else if they weren’t at Facebook (or wherever else)? Lets remember a reality here — thanks to the PC we now live in a world with the BEST, most experienced solitaire players ever.
- Do you think a company that sells “internet filtering” services to corporations might not be the best source for this study?
I would love to say that this shows why we need real journalists and shouldn’t just rely on bloggers. Actually that’s true — it’s just that we need real publications to be practicing real journalism and not this crap. The Reuter’s story doesn’t even quote anyone besides SurfControl! Guys next time save yourself some “work” and just run the press release.
Facebook is indeed involved with a time waster, but it’s the press that created it.
(Hooray for TechDirt which got the story right.)