The Internet, Social Networks and Employee Productivity

Posted on December 20, 2007
Filed Under Culture & Technology | posted an article by Eric J. Sinrod, a partner in the San Francisco office of law firm Duane Morris (no known relation to my good friend Philip Morris), in which the question of whether social networks can co-exist with the workplace is addressed.

Eric points out that, according to , 50 percent of businesses using Barracuda Web Filters are blocking social networking services like MySpace and Facebook. Most businesses, however, are more concerned about security (viruses, trojans, etc.) than they are about the fact that their employees are wasting time “poking” during business hours.

Eric suggests that there are entirely legitimate reasons for professionals to use social networks and notes that businesses embracing the Internet have fared far better than their luddite counterparts. I can’t take issue with either of Eric’s points but I think his article misses a larger problem.

According to an in Inc. Magazine:

In 2005, American workers spent the equivalent of 2.3 million years’ worth of 40-hour workweeks reading nonwork-related blogs while at work, according to a study by Advertising Age magazine. And that’s just blogs. Millions more work years were spent shopping online, checking eBay listings, cruising social networks, looking for vacation deals, Googling old flames, and, of course, ogling porn. A 2005 survey by America Online and concluded that employers spend nearly $760 billion a year paying employees to goof off on the Web.

While I’m sure that foreign workers waste time on the Internet (primarily because they’ve been infected by American consumer culture), readers of The Drama 2.0 Show have probably picked up on the fact that I am bearish on the United States, both economically and culturally. The amount of time American workers waste on the Internet is not only disturbing because of its economic ramifications but because it is emblematic of our lazy, entertainment-driven lifestyle. The work ethic that made the United States an economic superpower has been fading and now that the Millennials and demanding their “work-life” balance, it will probably be eliminated altogether.

Of course, some will counter that employers can do more to make the workplace more enjoyable, and while that’s true to a certain extent, the reality is that sometimes work is just work. It’s great if you love your job and find it enjoyable, but we have a serious problem when our culture has conditioned us to seek entertainment and fun all the time and have legions of “adults” who can’t focus enough to simply get shit done - even when they’re being paid for it. Companies can implement Internet policies, monitor employee Internet usage and install web filters but at the end of the day, if your employees have an inherent desire to spend time reading worthless blogs (like this one), bidding on eBay, ogling naked pictures or flirting on MySpace, the fact that you may be able to block their access to these things doesn’t change the fact that your employees are lazy, useless excuses for human beings.

Unfortunately, most companies would rather not accept this. They’ll continue filtering Internet traffic while pretending that most of their employees are assets and not liabilities. And even more unfortunately, some will even lose money to another group of useless excuses for human beings: attorneys. After all, Eric J. Sinrod ends his piece by noting that in dealing with this complex issue, “legal counsel likely should be consulted along the way too. While this imposes some costs on the front end, the profitable proof will be in the pudding. Any company built to last will recognize this is an investment in its future.”

I have different advice and mine won’t cost you $500 an hour. If the idea of paying money to unproductive American employees and then spending money on an attorney to look at the legal implications of the strategies you use to limit the productivity you lose due to their Internet usage seems like a losing proposition, do what I do: try to work with people overseas as much as possible. I not only guarantee that you’ll have an easier time finding motivated self-starters in places like South America and Eastern Europe (to help your business exploit gullible American consumers of course), but they’ll be a whole lot smarter than the average American too.

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14 Responses to “The Internet, Social Networks and Employee Productivity”

  1. Stanley Miller on December 20th, 2007 10:08 am

    Those gullible American consumers is why you and I have the opportunity to work with those Eastern European self-starters. You realize, of course, if America stopped being so gullible; stopped buying piles of meaningless things (for the low, lower, and lowest prices), economies would shut down. Our foolishness is actually making the world a better place. That is, the other worlds.

    Now get back to filling out those TPS reports.

  2. Michael Camilleri on December 20th, 2007 10:33 am

    Yes, that’s right, because economies only work so long as they’re fuelled by reckless and excessive consumer spending.

  3. Alex Linhares on December 20th, 2007 10:51 am

    Thanks, man. I’ve been looking for that dream academic job in the US. Here’s my resumé:

    Send in the checks!

  4. Drama 2.0 on December 20th, 2007 4:55 pm

    Stanley: there’s a big difference between sustainable consumerism and unsustainable consumerism. I would much rather have a system in which American consumers can be perpetually exploited. The current system is unsustainable and there will be a collapse. Fortunately, the foreigners who have benefited from American overconsumption are and will continue to step in to take our place as idiot consumers but it’s a pain in the ass having to exploit new people, especially when you don’t speak their language.

    Look at consumerism as an addiction. Functional addicts make the best customers because they never get in too much trouble and therefore can be relied upon to keep coming back. American consumers, however, will not be functional addicts for much longer and therefore they’re not ideal clients on which to base a long-term business.

  5. Stanley Miller on December 20th, 2007 7:34 pm

    I see it differently. Consumerism is a treatment (with some side-effects) to counteract the glut of free time and subsequent boredom that technology bestows upon the populations of developed countries. (Drugs work too but with more side-effects. See Trainspotting.)

    The biggest benefits of consumerism is that it stimulates world-wide economic activity. Globally, it provides the opportunity to raise the poorest out of poverty - though not all at once.

    Critics have been calling for the death of the consumer for years. See “The Culture of Narcissism” (Lasch, 1979). TeamUSA still has plenty of spend left. And if they get a little shy, our corporate-sponsored government will be glad to offer some relief. (see Monopoly by Parker Brothers)

    Don’t count on our trading partners to pick up much of the spending slack. Europeans tend to be more conservative in their spending habits and the slave wages in China and India don’t give those populations enough spending power yet.

    Sure, it will be a bumpy ride in 2008 and probably on into ‘09. If things don’t pick up on their own, look for some government sponsored help:

    **Stanley Miller’s Biggest Predictions**

    - Universal Healthcare act of 2010. Provides annual cap on health care expenses. Eliminates big “unknown” of health-care costs and frees up baby-boomer spending. Also, stimulates entrepreneurial activity as inventors can leave their jobs to independently innovate and still have healthcare for the family.

    - Consumer debt relief act of 2010. Government sponsored refinancing (or tax relief) for credit card and other consumer debt.

    - Student Loan debt relief act. Again, more cheap refinancing and possibly forgiving loans for minimum public service (i.e. go pick up trash on a weekend).

    Other incentives:

    - Grants to companies developing alternative fuels/Clean Tech.
    - Grants to companies automating healthcare system.

  6. Drama 2.0 on December 20th, 2007 8:14 pm

    Stanley: you do realize that technically the United States government is bankrupt, right? It’s paying its bills with money it borrows.

    The Fed (which is a private organization) has been printing money to ease the credit crunch and other central banks have been intervening in the global markets, but if you’ve been following, this central bank intervention hasn’t had anywhere near the impact that previous interventions have had. In short, the global monetary system and the financial instruments that have been created to exploit it have become so complex and out of control that the idea central banks have much control anymore is naive at best.

    Regardless of what you think causes consumerism, it isn’t simply fueled by easy access to debt; it’s fueled by a global monetary system that’s essentially a ponzi scheme. Thinking that a government which essentially ceded control of the printing of money to private bankers is going to save the day is extremely naive. It’s akin to trusting a thief to guard your house. The majority of your elected officials have no basic knowledge of economics and monetary policy. At this point, most Americans are little more than sheep being led to an economic slaughter.

    If you want to make a realistic prediction, here’s one: the value of today’s fiat currencies, like the US dollar, will eventually return to their natural value - nothing. Every previous fiat currency has.

  7. Stanley Miller on December 20th, 2007 8:56 pm

    I’ve been following the money situation too. That fiat systems always go flat (while history makes a good case) I think is over-simplifying matters this time. The world’s currencies, economies, and political incentives are too tightly linked for a complete dollar collapse as you portend. You’d need to do something to unhook the petro-dollar first. Since leaving the gold-standard, where now the value of money is, more or less, just an opinion, governments have a lot more flexibility to manipulate the money supply. It’s not perfect. And they’re certainly having a helluva time with it lately.

    We’re clearly at the end of another cycle. It’s been a good run. Unfortunately the money supply is caught up in the online casino known as the credit, debt, and stock, and commodity markets. The bubbles will deflate and their will be some uncertain times ahead. Deflation? Inflation? Or Stag?

    Then we’ll do it all again.

    The world is in this together and nobody wants it to fall apart. The U.S. is still home to the worlds best consumers; the global economy will find a way to continue treatments.

  8. Stanley Miller on December 20th, 2007 9:13 pm

    “The functioning of the international monetary system was thus reduced to a childish game in which, after each round, the winners return their marbles to the losers.”

    Jacques Rueff, Fortune, July 1961

  9. Drama 2.0 on December 20th, 2007 9:40 pm

    History is replete with examples of people thinking that something bad just can’t happen because “this time” it’s different. And it never is.

    The situation is actually quite simple:

    1. Fiat money is worthless.
    2. Fractional reserve banking is nothing more than a ponzi scheme.

    There is no question that there will be continued attempted “treatments” of the flawed monetary system but so long as these “treatments” target the symptoms instead of the underlying flaws, the real problems will only get worse. Eventually the problems will become so bad that “treatments” become ineffective.

    Additionally, please recognize that the US government does not manipulate the money supply - the Federal Reserve does. The Fed is a private bank and if you trust that the Fed is representing the interests of the United States instead of the interests of the elite bankers who own the Fed banks, you’re being extremely naive. As Mayer Amschel Rothschild said, “Give me control of a nation’s money and I care not who makes its laws.”

    When looking at what’s currently going on with the money supply, you might want to ponder the possible reasons the Fed stopped releasing the M3 figures last year.

    “The world is in this together and nobody wants it to fall apart.”

    Most of the world is in this together. Unfortunately, you either forget or are not aware that there do exist small groups that exploit their power to make money. These “kingmakers” make more money building up nations (and economies) and destroying them than they do simply building them up. While stability is the desire of the average man, instability is the desire of the opportunistic man.

    I leave you with a few relevant quotes from men far more wise than I:

    “If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their money, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them, will deprive the people of their property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.”

    “The system of banking [is] a blot left in all our Constitutions, which, if not covered, will end in their destruction… I sincerely believe that banking institutions are more dangerous than standing armies; and that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity… is but swindling futurity on a large scale.”

    Thomas Jefferson

    “A great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is concentrated. The growth of the Nation and all our activities are in the hands of a few men. We have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated Governments in the world - no longer a Government of free opinion no longer a Government by conviction and vote of the majority, but a Government by the opinion and duress of small groups of dominant men….”

    Woodrow Wilson (1913)

    “The Federal Reserve Bank of New York is eager to enter into close relationship with the Bank for International Settlements….The conclusion is impossible to escape that the State and Treasury Departments are willing to pool the banking system of Europe and America, setting up a world financial power independent of and above the Government of the United States….The United States under present conditions will be transformed from the most active of manufacturing nations into a consuming and importing nation with a balance of trade against it.”

    Rep. Louis McFadden (1930)

    “[The] abandonment of the gold standard made it possible for the welfare statists to use the banking system as a means to an unlimited expansion of credit…. In the absence of the gold standard, there is no way to protect savings from confiscation through inflation. There is no safe store of value. If there were, the government would have to make its holdings illegal, as was done in the case of gold…. The financial policy of the welfare state requires that there be no way for the owners of wealth to protect themselves…. [This] is the shabby secret of the welfare statist’s tirades against gold. Deficit spending is simply a scheme for the ‘hidden’ confiscation of wealth. Gold stands in the way of this insidious process. It stands as a protector of property rights.”

    Alan Greenspan (1966)

  10. Drama 2.0 on December 20th, 2007 10:05 pm

    Final comment. In regards to the marble analogy, go one step higher and consider that the most elite bankers on the planet do not play with marbles - they manufacture them with the stroke of a pen. The nations and individuals that exchange marbles will perpetually go through cycles in which they play both winner and loser. The practically invisible manufacturer of the marbles, on the other hand, always wins, and has the ability to manipulate the game to maximize his own gains.

    At the end of the day, you might ask “So what? The game is cyclical. Times might get tough, but we’ll eventually win again.” Unfortunately, on a personal level, when your nation is currently on the losing end, the consequences to the quality of your daily life can be quite unpleasant and cycles can take a long time to evolve. Thus, those who trust the government to safeguard their wealth are liable to find that not only have they lost it, but that it never really existed in the first place. C’est la vie.

  11. Stanley Miller on December 21st, 2007 2:49 pm

    “…and then I asked myself some questions, but my head begin to hurt so I stopped asking so many questions and went on living my life.”, -Tom, A Story About Tom (1990)

  12. Stanley Miller on December 21st, 2007 3:37 pm

    Drama: Surely your comments of naivety were in jest? To put meaning in government figuratives (M&M’s); faith in the fictional lines between the consortia, be that central banks, the mafia, the executive branch, or their corporate sponsors; to put value in shiny bars of gold unearthed with shovels? It bespeaks of the writer’s innocence. There is meaning in the meaningless of it all. The traces of which can be sourced to the primal regions of our DNA. Whether you be rich or poor, elitist or rube, we all struggle with what it is and what will be. The sky may fall, but it will lift again. (Bernanke still has a put or two.) In the meantime let us consume. Yes. And it was good. Yummy! :)

  13. Drama’s Roundup - December 28, 2007 : The Drama 2.0 Show on December 28th, 2007 12:56 am

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