It is mid-summer, and my children are turning into vampires. I got up at 5:30 a.m. this morning to see my husband and our three biggest boys off on their annual Men’s Trip, and after kissing them goodbye and closing the door behind them, I noticed a tapping noise. I followed the noise into my office to see my 15-year-old daughter, giggling and chatting away with her pals on Facebook at the crack of dawn. “How long have you been on Facebook?” I asked her, knowing in advance the answer would be “all night.” Eight hours on Facebook. I couldn’t do it, myself, but I understand the appeal to a kid. And I understand the associated worry among employers: if a kid could spend hours on Facebook, what will happen when these youngsters are working in our companies?
When my contemporaries and I hit the workplace, employers had other concerns in the wasting-time department. Here were the time-wasters of my era: 1) Personal phone calls 2) Smoking breaks 3) Coffee/soda breaks I don't smoke, so the smoking thing never figured into my worldview. But it was a big, big deal at one time, and still is in some workplaces. Companies first set aside indoor smoking rooms and then, when smoking indoors became a no-no, designated smoking areas outside their buildings. Now, lots of campuses are smoke-free all the way out to the parking lot. But people will always find ways to squander time, or (to put it more sympathetically) to recharge their batteries. Coffee breaks were a big deal when I was a young office worker. Personal phone calls were an issue of major significance. Facebook, smoking, soda, personal calls....it's all the same deal.
The Facebook generation won't while away their worktime hours sharing movie tastes with their friends if they've got interesting work to do on their desks, and if we've hired the right people to begin with. When I interrupted my daughter from her all-night Facebook session, she ran over to me. "Look, Mom!" she said. "I've been watching the school district's website every day, and our final grades showed up this morning." She was proud of her ninth-grade GPA, with good reason. I don't worry about a kid like that. She'll study when she needs to, sleep when she needs, to and get her Facebook time in whenever her calendar and biomechanics allow. I don't worry about Facebookers in the workplace, either. These online diversions aren't so much different from coffee breaks -- just more colorful.