Technology: Personal Life and Productivity

It’s hard to think of a white-collar job, or even a friendship, that does not require 24/7 connection and communication with others through technology. The expectation is that emails will always be answered promptly, and friends will always be texted immediately. However, we should be taking the time to stop and ask why we’re doing this. What are we actually getting out of this on the individual level and as a society? Are we actually being more productive and are we happier?

Looking to personal use of technology, the answer seems to be that we are unfortunately becoming more depressed, anxious, and dissatisfied with ourselves.  As it turns out, passively using Facebook without intention of making social connection can lead to increased depressive and anxiety symptoms (Frost & Rickwood, 2017). Particularly in females, viewing images of others and their life events can lead to social comparison that can result in body dissatisfaction. Considering the high accessibility and potential for social comparison on social media sites, these findings are unsurprising. It is well established that when women view thin models in magazines and advertisements, there is an increased drive for thinness and lowered body satisfaction. Now, imagine the spring season on Facebook; everyone is hitting the beach for the first time, taking pictures with their beaming smiles, flat stomachs, and filtered tans. Is it any wonder that their Facebook “friends” may experience heightened depressive and anxiety symptoms? Shouldn’t we expect that a woman would experience heightened body image concerns when the ability to access these images are virtually endless, and always novel as they flip through their feed? Certainly, Facebook does give us access to all kinds of people that we may or may not have interacted with in our lives, but how we interact with the material makes all the difference. How we interact as a society to Facebook really suggests that we should not be using Facebook nearly as much as we do.

Ok, so you get it, I’m not a fan of Facebook. What about technology in the workplace? Is there something to be said for technology making us more productive when we can access documents, emails, shared folders, and basically our entire office and staff 24/7? Unfortunately, the evidence suggests that we are not more productive, and may just be making more sacrifices in our work-life balance (Ayyagari, Grover, & Purvis, 2011). As a time management consultant, being smart about using technology is something that I preach to the students I work with. Technology often provides more of an obstacle than assistance with productivity. Students working on their computers can receive text notifications, email notifications, or simply be tempted to check what’s new in social media, or BuzzFeed. In order to actually make technology work toward your advantage, it takes an incredible amount of self-control, knowing your weaknesses, and planning; all of which the marketing companies are working against. Without taking the proper precautions, you might think that technology is helping you to address various different aspects throughout your day (ie responding to an email quickly in the middle of writing a report), but really, you are losing time to orient to the email and then back to the report. Multitasking is something we all think we can do and are actually terrible at doing. Before you know it, an entire day spent multitasking due to the “benefits” of technology can actually lead to doing more work later on, and work overload. There might also be the perception that because you can do the work any time of day, that you will spread it out or procrastinate, and instead of getting the work done, stress and worry of doing the work takes over the day. Creating helpful strategies can make all the difference, but don’t be fooled by the lure of technology seemingly making the day more productive.

References

Ayyagari, R., Grover, V., & Purvis, R. (2011). Technostress: technological antecedents and implications. MIS quarterly35(4), 831-858.

Frost, R. L., & Rickwood, D. J. (2017). A systematic review of the mental health outcomes associated with Facebook use. Computers in Human Behavior76, 576-600.

One thought on “Technology: Personal Life and Productivity

  1. I appreciated your perspective as a time management consultant on the advantages and disadvantages of technology use to boost productivity. I think many of us grad students fall victim to “multitasking” due to technology. We plan to spend an hour writing but it takes 10 minutes to “set the mood” by minimizing other windows and programs, picking the perfect playlist on spotify to help us focus we finally begin writing. Then our phone buzzes and we glance down and see we have an email notification. We think we can just quickly check the email and come back to writing, but someone has asked us to do something, which we think won’t take long so we might as well just reply right then. Before we know it we are browsing the internet, reading other articles related or unrelated articles and the hour we had planned to write for has passed. Now it is too late because you get another notification that you have a meeting you must attend. So we spent an hour essentially accomplishing nothing, as we did not complete the task we had planned to. This often happens to me and then instead of realizing that maybe I should power off the internet and simply focus on putting words on the paper for an hour, I get mad at myself for not staying on task and being able to focus. I am in a PhD program and SHOULD be able to spend an hour writing about my research, but for “some reason” I can’t- then I start to question my motivation, which makes me stress, perpetuating a vicious cycle. However, after reading your post and work by Ayyagari and colleagues I realized that maybe it isn’t my lack of focus or motivation, but rather technology just makes it way too easy to sneakily hinder my productivity. Next time I get down on myself for inability to focus I am going to make a greater effort to “unplug” and see if this aids in fostering my productivity…fingers crossed!

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