Is Facebook Ruining Your Life?

Facebook might be a harmless once-a-day opportunity for you to check in with friends and family. But it also might have crept into your life to the point where it is interfering with your ability to do your job well, and, more importantly, with your ability to connect with people and be happy.

Daniel Gulati recently wrote about researching his book Passion & Purpose, and how he interviewed hundreds of young business leaders and came to some very negative conclusions about Facebook.

Distracted Lawyers Lawyer Badly

The most important problem Facebook creates for lawyers is how it distracts us. Do you access Facebook at home, at work, and on your mobile device while on the move? Do you check in several times a day? Do you post often? Gulati writes:

Sketching out a mind-numbing presentation for the board meeting? Perhaps it’s time to reply to your messages. Stuck in traffic? It’s time to browse your newsfeed. Recounted one interviewee, “I almost got hit by a car while using Facebook crossing the street.”

All this leaping from one task to another degrades the quality of our work by imposing “switching costs,” the costs in time and quality of work that result from the brain continually needing to recalibrate on different tasks. This reduces the quality of the work and makes all tasks take longer than they should. Srikumar Rao calls mindfulness over multitasking one of his 10 steps to happiness at work.

Face to Face? Whatever For?

Facebook also replaces in-person interaction. One might argue that it does keep you in touch with people you’d not connect with otherwise, and that’s true. But if you are at the coffee shop alone, on Facebook, instead of with a friend, that’s just not the same kind of connection as face-to-face. It just isn’t. When I asked three friends to give up a summer weekend to help me tear the roof off my house in 96 degree heat, the two of them that showed up created a bond with me that a billion hours of Facebook chat cannot replicate. A hug from a friend is better than a million Facebook “likes.” If Facebook takes time you could be spending on real human interaction, it’s time to make a change.

Sam Glover is right: if you want to grow your practice, don’t “network.” Go spend time with real people doing something. Also, don’t give up time with people for Facebook or any other diversion that requires an electronic device. And leave the smartphone in your pocket the entire time you’re kickin’ it old school.

(photo: Shutterstock)


  1. Avatar Susan Gainen says:

    Thanks, Andy.

    Although FB offers the opportunity to “connect-without-being-connected,” I hesitate to give it too much power. Folks were fully capable of being distracted, daydreaming, doodling, and talking on their landline phones before FB came into their lives.

    • Avatar Andy M. says:

      True. I have spent a fair amount of my life daydreaming and doodling (not big on the phone, though). But it seems to me there’s an essential difference between staring out the window or doodling on the one hand and looking at a facebook photo of what someone made for dinner on the other hand. The former is contemplative and the latter is just passively taking in what someone else provides, over and over and over.

  2. Avatar Abbie says:

    Good post Andy and great advice from Sam. I recently started back at school and noticed that students don’t even talk to each other during breaks anymore. They just sit on their computers (often checking Facebook) and scroll through their phones…mindlessly passing time and avoiding meaninful interaction. Sigh.

    @Susan, you’re right, Facebook doesn’t deserve the blame….just like McDonald’s isn’t to blame for making us fat. We have the freedom to make our own choices and therefore can only blame ourselves.

    • Avatar Scott says:

      My friend had some people over for a big football game several weeks ago. Sure enough, about 8 of the 12 people or so spent most of the game staring down at their mobiles. Ridiculous how these little devices control us.

  3. I auto load FB, Twitter, Linkedin, and Google + each morning on my desktop and am able to “connect” with dozens of people each day on a personal and professional level. Being able to do this is a huge plus, an asset, and deal changer and separates my California firm from the others. It’s interesting to learn which platforms different clients prefer and how they use DM rather than email to share info. Sure, you gotta be smart about your time and efforts but all in all I couldn’t do business without social media. Mitch

  4. Avatar linda says:

    I lost my whole family and many friends because of Facebook. I don’t blame Facebook, I just wish it didn’t exist because then people couldn’t misunderstand, misinterpret, embarrass themselves or others, hurt feelings, post inappropriate photos or comments, judge and unfriend their own family and block their friends. Without face to face contact or voice contact, there is a lot of communication missing that would change how a remark is interpreted such as tone of voice, facial expression, body language, etc. Facebook sets up the perfect environment for misunderstandings.

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