Wasting time on Facebook? It’s costing us billions.

Written by Dr. Andrew Doan & Brooke Strickland on .

We all know the Facebook trap: you open it up on your phone or laptop and you start scrolling. Before you know it, your eyes are glazing over and 20 minutes has gone by. When Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg founded the site, he wanted to have everyone spend lots of time clicking around his website and now, 12 years later, it has changed the way we interact. In fact, social media as a whole has revolutionized communication as a whole. For many people, face to face interactions are secondary. The go-to communication tactic is direct messaging, texting, or posting messages on people’s Facebook pages. The time consumers spend on Facebook has become so excessive that according to the company’s 2012 IPO filings, users spend about 10.5 billion minutes a day (not counting on mobile apps) worldwide. That means people have spent about 55 million years on Facebook since 2009. If that’s not shocking enough, it’s estimated that this wasted time is costing about $3.5 trillion in wasted productivity.  In fact, if you spent those 20 minutes a day off of Facebook and working a minimum wage job, you could make a little over $800 that year. (1)  

Consider this chart from CNBC News: 

It’s not just adults that are losing productive hours on Facebook. In fact, much of today’s youth culture is online almost continuously and their life is often dominated and sometimes even controlled by social media. A recent study out of Ottawa Public Health looked at how social media usage plays into a young person’s overall mental health. The study discovered that for those teens that are using social media for two or more hours each day, they are more likely to struggle with mental health, suicidal thoughts, and psychological stress.  The study collected data from 750 students ranging from seventh to twelfth grade and 25% reported being connected to Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram for at least two hours a day. This group was also more likely to show signs of anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. (2) 

The solution to social media overuse is to begin limiting access to it when children are young. It’s not uncommon to see babies or toddlers playing with phones or tablets, but this can actually be very harmful to a developing young brain. If you’re an adult that is showing signs of social media addiction, starting cutting back your usage time a little bit every day. If you’re used to spending 2 hours a day looking at Facebook or Instagram posts, reduce your time by a half hour each day and see how you do. It’s okay to take baby steps! Excessive use for prolonged periods of time can cause damage over time – socially, emotionally, and sometimes even physically. 

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1. Fahey, Mark. “Time Wasted on Facebook Could be Costing Us Trillions in Lost Productivity.” NBC News. February 4, 2016. Accessed online February 9, 2016. http://www.nbcnews.com/tech/social-media/time-wasted-facebook-could-be-costing-us-trillions-lost-productivity-n511421

2. Gregoire, Carolyn. “Heavy Social Media Use Linked With Mental Health Issues in Teens.” Huffington Post. July 28, 2015. Accessed online October 9, 2015. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/social-media-mental-health_55b129d9e4b08f57d5d3eedf