Social Media At Work Still For Goofing Off

Last week Microsoft, a big corporation, paid $26 billion for LinkedIn, the most corporate of all the social networks, in order to combine their corporate assets in a very big, boring way. There is undoubtedly a plan for their integration, which probably involves words like “thought leadership” and “virtuous circle,” but even social media analysts are having a hard time getting excited about the union of two colorless entities to form a larger one.

Happily for the rest of the world, unlike thought leaders, real human beings know that social media in the workplace is still basically a way to goof off. That’s according to a new survey by Pew Research Center, which polled 2,003 adults last September to find out how they use social media at work.

Overall, 34% of respondents said they use social media to “take a mental break” or goof off, while 27% said they use it to “connect with friends and family” or goof off. By contrast, just 24% said they use it to make professional connections, and 20% said they use it to build or strengthen personal relationships with coworkers.

Connecting with coworkers on social media isn’t necessarily an unalloyed positive: while 14% of respondents said they found information on social media that improved their opinion of a coworker, a slightly larger proportion, 16%, said they found information that lowered their opinion (finding out your cubicle neighbor is a Tila Tequila fan = grounds for mental health leave). Both proportions are higher among younger workers, with 23% of workers ages 18-29 saying they found positive information and 29% negative information.

So what do bosses think about all this? Screw ‘em! 77% of respondents said they use social media without regard to any official workplace policy, which may or may not exist, regarding social media. To the degree that social media policies are in place, they may actually have a chilling effect on social media for “enterprise” purposes: just 16% of employees at workplaces with social media policies say they use it for getting work-related information, compared to 25% at workplaces without social media policies.  

Now back to work, you!


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