Infomania and Facebook

Sparkling Water at the Science MuseumThere are days when thoughts come together. I’ve been wondering about the impact of Facebook on infomania. This follows on from some of the reports in recent days about the productivity impact of Facebook and a newish report on Informania.

To recap, infomania is the condition that your boss (probably) has when they feel the need to checking emails on their Blackberry while they are talking to you. it’s the need that they have to make sure that they aren’t missing out on something.

As we increase access to information and information sources then we increase the infomania that these people all feel. Facebook is just the latest source of information.

This need to access information costs business lots of productivity, but is it really Facebook that is to blame. I’ve written before about the Blackberry effect on the work/life balance as another example.

My starting point is that infomania not the tool’s problem, it’s a human problem. We are still in control of the machines, we still have access to the off button (although I was in a meeting earlier this week where a senior manager didn’t know how to turn his Blackberry off). It’s our choice not to use it.

The numbers in the report are startling:

Intel employees spend an average of some three hours per day processing email. About 30 percent of messages (one million per day) are unnecessary.

On average, knowledge workers can expect three minutes of uninterrupted work on any task before being interrupted.

On average, a major interruption occurs every 11 minutes, the time to return to an interrupted task is 25 minutes …

The bottom line: Infomania causes a damage of about US$1 billion per annum for a knowledge-intensive company of 50,000 employees. As usual with such calculations, this value is conservative, representing only more direct aspects of the problem. Additional, harder to measure damages exist but are not included.

If those numbers are true, then we need to do something to protect people from themselves. If we were talking about a drug we would probably ban it. If not an outright ban we would at least have a huge education programme making sure that people understood the dangers they were entering into. Anyone can buy a computer and connect it to the Internet without any understanding of the potential dangers. A car is a dangerous thing, so we train people how to use it properly.

I wonder, though, whether we need to go further.

  • Perhaps we need global information rest days when we turn everything off.
  • Perhaps we need to run infomanics anonymous courses to help people.
  • Perhaps we need to remove network connections and ban blackberry’s from meeting rooms.
  • Perhaps we need to give children IT Education alongside Sex Education.
  • Perhaps…
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3 thoughts on “Infomania and Facebook”

  1. Whilist I agree in principle with your point:
    “My starting point is that infomania not the tool’s problem, it’s a human problem. We are still in control of the machines, we still have access to the off button”
    the same can be said of other addictions — drug adiction is not the fault of Heroin, etc. I think its easy to say turn it off, for someone who hasn’t been addicted! My preference is to try and develop strategies to help people realise they have an addiction, relaise the damage it does and then help them break it. Obviously its even better to help them avoid it in the first place.
    When I got my Blackberry years ago I noticed the addiction within days and quickly switched off the audio/visual notification. Still it was a problem. I’ve not had a Blackberry for a while and am just about to get another so it will be interesting to see how I cope. I am certainly addicted to email/RSS checking now and have to be pretty proactive in using strategies to control its negative affect on my productivity.
    All that said – I know I have an addictive personability, so I may be worse than others.


  2. eBay

    Following on from my post about Infomania and Facebook the BBC is today reporting on a set of workers who have lost their jobs because of ebay addiction. Unison welfare officer Mark Fisher said people got “addicted” to certain web


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