One Facebook Visit Kills Your Ability To Stay Focused

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With 845 million active users visiting the site every month, I think it's safe to say that Facebook is everybody's favorite time-killer. However, checking in on the site might do more than just fill a few minutes if you're pressed against a deadline: it does a number on your productivity.

A new study published on Psychology Today took a look at the study habits of roughly 300 students from middle school, high school, and university. The researchers were interested in observing whether the students could maintain focus for fifteen minutes while studying "something important" in a familiar environment or, if they couldn't, what was causing distractions for the students.

Beyond the discouraging result that these students couldn't maintain focus for more than an average of three minutes, the researchers found that the number one distraction for the students was technology, mostly in the form of computers and smartphones. Dr. Larry Rosen, a Professor of Psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills, describes the further investigation into whether these distractions were predictive of academic performance, as well as what the seemingly benign effect of checking Facebook was:

We also looked at whether these distractors might predict who was a better student. Not surprisingly those who stayed on task longer and had study strategies were better students. The worst students were those who consumed more media each day and had a preference for working on several tasks at the same time and switching back and forth between them. One additional result stunned us: If they checked Facebook just once during the 15-minute study period they were worse students. It didn’t matter how many times they looked at Facebook; once was enough.

In other words, Facebook slaps a stranglehold on your cognitive abilities. When Rosen's team asked students why they felt so compelled to check Facebook, some of them replied that it was due to an alert they received. However, some of them simply admitted that they were sitting there wondering if somebody had responded to their Facebook post yet.

The overlap between social media and work is increasing more and more although it's possible that constantly checking out what's going on Facebook could be killing productivity in the workplace. Rosen's research seem to not only corroborate the fact that Facebook wrecks your motivation to get tasks done in the office, but it could also be the reason you got crummy grades in school.

[Via LifeHacker.]