Facebook, the productivity killer and perennial thorn in the side of corporate managers and executives everywhere, recently revealed its latest plan to take over a little more of the world.
With its eye on Yammer and an emerging trend towards work-driven private social networks, the company has announced Facebook at Work, billed as an alternative (and presumably better) way for employees of a company to communicate internally.
Some apparently think that anything is better than being constantly hammered with a deluge of email. I can think of something worse — being hit with the same amount of messages but in an alternate reality Facebook where the only people who exist are the people I work with.
But there is a positive side to Facebook’s announcement. It means more people are figuring out that email clients were never intended to be used as instant messaging software.
“Did you get the email I sent you?”
“Probably, but I haven’t checked my email in a couple of hours.”
“You don’t keep your inbox open?”
Nope. Because If I did, I wouldn’t get anything else done. To increase my productivity, I’ve made an effort to limit checking corporate email to three times a day. Even as an editor working with writers on what is often time-sensitive content, I’ve found that three times is usually sufficient. Collaboration doesn’t always need to be instantaneous. And when it does, there are better, more specialized tools out there than Facebook.
Some companies have an outright ban on Facebook in the workplace, partly because they see people in the outside world as a distraction to the folks inside who are trying to get work done. But Facebook believes it can convince company executives to let employees use its “at work” version like a company intranet. They’re even changing the color of the user interface so supervisors can tell with one glance if you’re on “work Facebook” or “real Facebook.”
The whole idea, of course, is based on the false assumption that people inside your company won’t be as much a of a drag on productivity as those in your newsfeed who are outside the company.
Good luck with that. Have you ever been pulled reluctantly into a real-time chat on Facebook when you were really intending to just check your feed and move on to something else? Imagine having this experience on a regular basis with your colleagues.
Another big question is Facebook’s ability to keep data safe. If Facebook at Work is meant to be a collaborative space, there’s inevitably going to be some confidential information on the network. Facebook says information will be kept “secure, confidential and completely separate” from personal Facebook profiles.
Recent high-profile security breaches like the one at Sony, however, might give some companies a reason to be skeptical. But even if the social media giant can deliver on its guarantee, who’s going to protect our information from Facebook?
I can’t even look at a pair of Nikes online without the same shoes following me to virtually every other site I visit online, including making multiple appearances in my Facebook feed. And Facebook already creeps me out with its ability to target ads. What would it be able to do if it knew my daily work details too?
Facebook, for its part, assures that such a scenario wouldn’t happen. BBC reports, “At this stage the work version will not feature adverts, nor will it gather data about its users that could be sold on to third parties.”
But what about the next stage? Could a company that has built massive wealth by collecting user data and selling targeted advertising really give up its data addiction so easily?
Don’t count on it.
I’m not suggesting there’s anything wrong with a company collecting data as part of its business model, as long as it’s up front about it. Own what you do. But why is it that, with Facebook, every new announcement always makes you wonder if another shoe is about to drop?
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, like any shrewd businessman, is not only trying to reach more potential customers, he’s trying to create more potential customers. This week, he’s in Colombia launching an initiative for Internet.org, a nonprofit partnership aimed at bringing affordable Internet access to everyone.
According to Reuters, the partnership’s free Internet application brings tools like Wikipedia, job listings, weather websites and health information to low income users. And Facebook — did I mention Facebook? Because apparently no one in the world can do without Facebook.
Soon there won’t be too many places where you can escape it. Including, if Zuckerberg has his way, your office.
Yet another reason to join the cool kids over on Twitter.
Shane Raynor lives in Nashville, Tennessee and is an editor at Ministry Matters.
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