We’ve all done it. Glanced at Facebook while building Lego with our kids, got distracted during a conversation with our spouse because we got a notification on our phone, or wasted more time than we meant scrolling through other people’s photos. And we all feel that twinge of guilt about it too. We know it’s not as important as the child, the spouse, or the time in front of us; but there’s something just addicting enough to pull us in and away from what matters.

Majority of us would admit we have a social media problem. Most of us would even call ourselves addicted.But how does social media actually affect our productivity?

Why we like social media so much

The layouts of Facebook and Twitter are so simple, but there’s something addictively tantalizing about them as well. The notifications, the friend requests, the sharing and commenting, and especially the scrolling. Even now, as I checked Facebook to see what colors and layout it had, I found myself lost in its mindless scroll.

According to research, the likes we see on photos or receive on our posts cause the brain to react similar to that of receiving a reward. Gambling and drug use cause a similar reaction. Social media, especially among young people, is also closely linked to affirmation and self-esteem.

The fear of missing out is another proposed theory for why we like social media so much. Particularly when a major event has taken place, either in the world or in my personal life; I am constantly checking my feed.

“Overall, adolescents and young adults’ stated motivations are quite similar to more traditional forms of communication – to stay in touch with friends, make plans, get to know people better, and present oneself to others.” Although technically harmless, the impact on both our productivity and well-being can be more negative than positive.

How much social media is hurting our productivity

We spend an average of two hours and 24 minutes on social media each day. How much of that is an actual waste of time and loss of productivity is hard to assess. But think about how much of that time could be spent on other things: like accomplishing tasks or learning a new skill.

The time we spend on social media is longer than we want. Unless working as a social media manager, no one can call themselves productive while checking their notifications on the job.

Tips to use social media better

A simple strategy that I personally use is removing any social media apps from my phone and only visiting Facebook and co. in my web browser. The web browser doesn’t function as well as the app and the icon isn’t there anymore to catch my eye.

Businesses could assign who is allowed to use social media at work, limit cell phone use, and even block the most popular social media websites. 

Productivity expert, Cal Newport, also suggests the idea of blocking out time for social media, similar to adding it to your calendar. Perhaps you work focused and productive for two hours and then take a scheduled five minute break with your phone. John addresses this idea in his book, Seven Minute Productivity Solution, as well: blocking out time for things can lead to more productivity and more focused work. 

Perhaps the next time we sit down to play Legos with our kids, we put our phones on silent in a different room. At work we can take the necessary five minutes to answer messages and then leave it to charge at our desk, spending the next two hours focused on work projects. Social media is here to stay and here to distract, but we can take steps to use it less and particularly to use it more productively.