In today’s society, people often say they couldn’t function without their cell phone. In
fact, there is even a new phobia called “nomophobia” or the fear of not having one’s phone1.
This new fear consists of two main things; the feeling that we need our phone on us at all times,
and the feeling that we need our phones in order to complete basic tasks2. Also, the phone has
made our lives increasingly more connected which has led us to being distracted more now than
ever before. According to the World Economic Forum, social media alone costs the U.S.
economy $650 billion each year in lost productivity3. This just shows that people have now
become dependent on their connection to the internet and it’s controlling their lives. Throughout
this section different statistics and studies will be evaluated showing how today’s society is
completely reliant and addicted to technology.
To put it all in perspective, a few statistics will be presented to show just how big a
problem this really is. According to a study done by Forbes, 31% of their participants wasted
roughly an hour a day at work using their phones4. This time online not only takes away from
one’s personal time outside of the office but it also hurts the company for which they work for.
As noted above, social media alone takes away billions of dollars from the U.S. economy, a
problem that didn’t exist before the creation of platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Another
issue with social media and phone use is that it distracts us for longer than we think. Another
study from the World Economic Forum says that it takes on average 23 minutes to regain focus
after checking your phone at work5, and to go even further the average knowledge worker checks
their phone every 6 minutes while working6. It goes without saying that this is a recipe for
disaster. Social media and our connection to the internet is causing us endless amounts of
distraction thus leading people to work more inefficiently.
According to a study done by TeamLease World of Work report. Facebook is at the
center of lost productivity at work7. The study says that 83% of those who used social media
during the day spent significant time browsing Facebook8. Facebook can quickly turn into a
blackhole of time wasting as users like, watch, and friend different posts and people while
wasting significant amounts of time. An article from NBC News states that there are roughly 1.6
billion monthly Facebook users contributing to over 55 million years of time spent on the
platform9. Since users spend on average twenty minutes a day on the site, this means twenty
minutes of lost productivity at their job or school. To put this in perspective, if the users replaced
their twenty minutes a day on Facebook with working for twenty extra minutes, users would
make an extra $880 per year10. In today’s society, knowledge workers are extremely
unproductive due to the constant distraction of the internet and social media. This is going to
become an increasing problem in the future when the generation that grew up on social media
joins the work place in full force. Throughout this section of the paper different studies and
statistics will continue to be analyzed to illustrate the problem of lost productivity due to social
media and technology.
In 2017, there was a study conducted on “Smartphone addiction, daily interruptions and
self-reported productivity11.” This study went into depth on the behavioral traits of internet
addiction and the problems with having a constant distraction within your pocket12. One of the
biggest issues with smartphones is the inability to do meaningful work for long periods of time.
This is called flow, or several minutes of full, unbroken, concentration13. As noted above, it takes
several minutes for people to regain focus and people check their phone nearly every 5 minutes.
This goes to show that it is hard to do deep and meaningful work without distraction. Any
distraction can be meaningful, as data has found that distractions for as little as 2.8 seconds can
disrupt your flow state14. With the amount of distractions smartphones create, how can anyone
do any real meaningful work anymore? What’s even worse news is that it is often very easy to
enter into this flow state while using social media, pulling people away from their work for long
periods of time15.
As a student, having a computer is crucial to one’s success. It can be used for a variety of
tasks including note taking and writing papers. Although, it turns out that using it in class is a lot
more detrimental than you think. A study done by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology at
West Point highlighted the negative effects of having a computer in the classroom. In fact, they
concluded that not having computers in class was the same as improving the quality of the
teacher16. The study broke West Point students into three groups; one that had access to
technology in class, one that had limited access, and one that had no access. Since the study was
done at West Point, where students are given job choice based on graduation rank, the findings
are remarkable because of their increased incentive to do well. The study also concluded that
these findings could be even more substantial at a school not as rigid and strict as West Point17.
Have you ever been working and have a sudden urge to check social media to make sure
you haven’t missed anything important? According to the study, this ‘checking habit” has
become unconscious for many users and thus leading people into internet addiction18. Although
internet addiction has not been accepted by all psychologists, walk into a restaurant and notice
the amount of people with their heads buried in their phones. Part of this new addiction is
directly related to a man named Nir Eyal, who has worked on both addicting applications and
how to resist the addictive features19. One of his articles is about the endless scrolling of social
media and how one can be sucked in for hours when they meant to just take a quick glance20.
This infinite scroll creates the “flow state” of social media that keeps us hooked for hours on
end21. This feature is why the survey noted above said that people waste about an hour every day
The time I spent at Off Grid Me was very insightful because of the
insight I received into internet addiction and how it impacts one’s work. I hope in the future I
will be able to take what I have learned and apply it to my career in order to work more
Providence College Class of 2021
School of International Learning, Geneva Switzerland, Fall 2019
on their smartphones22.