A study from retrevo shows when people are using services like Facebook and Twitter outside the times you’d think they are most used. Although the study’s questions are a little tongue in cheek, it is good to see a research study getting into the meat of when people use these services. Anecdotally, they reflect behaviours I see in myself and which are reported by others. Recently for instance I recall one colleague saying he could not go on holiday without his laptop. Another said he cannot resist checking email on his Blackberry. In a conversation with Mindjet last week, the CE noted someone checking Twitter while we were on the call. I took my laptop on vacation, found there was wifi and ended up firing the machine up at least a couple of times. Much to the annoyance of ‘er indoors.
The study begs the question – are we becoming addicted to these forms of media/communications? Speaking personally, I rely on Twitter to provide me fast track insights into the things I am interested in, get questions answered, follow developing topics and the like. But that’s what I do to keep blogs like this going. We are encouraged to stay in the flow of information that streams past our screens. Sometimes it’s useful. For instance I am currently following events at SAP TechEd and Oracle Open World. Simultaneously. Through a combination of dedicated Twitter feeds and live video.
What the study doesn’t examine though is WHY people are engaging in these addictive looking behaviours. It’s something I’ve thought about for a long time but have no clear answers. I sense that for some people at least, there is a need for connectedness to others that these media fulfill in a non-threatening way. You can be as passive or engaged as you wish. It’s like the party where you drift in and out of conversations, sometimes acting as the wall flower, at other times being the centre of attention. Except that it’s always party time in Facebook or Twitterland. And who wants to miss out on a good party? Or what about the party that never ends? Therein lies the danger of a seductive environment.
One of the problems with addictive behaviours is that they creep up on you. It’s often someone else who notices there is something wrong and not the sufferer. By that stage, denial has often set in making difficult any possibility of short term acceptance. But what happens when there is mass addiction? That’s the implication of this study. I mean, does it seem rational to be checking a social network after sex or while driving?
Don’t get me wrong. Social networks have enormous value – in the right context and at the appropriate time.
Short of understanding more about what drives people’s behaviours, is it any wonder then that some companies have chosen to ban access to these media in the workplace?
PS – The same study also talks to the frequency with which people are said to be checking these services.
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