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How Much Does Facebook Use Cost The UK Economy?

The UK ranks sixth in the world in terms of its number of Facebook users. Facebook use is widespread across genders and age groups, and approximately 70 per cent of UK citizens have a Facebook account, spending on average 2.5 hours a day using this social network. The total number of active users has been steadily growing and is expected to reach 37.7 million by the end of 2017 and more than 41 million by 2021.

This popular platform is able to generate more than just social interaction, but also economic activity by reducing barriers to commerce and networking activities. However, there is a downside to Facebook use, which is often quantified in terms of productivity losses. So what is the real cost of such large-scale use of this social media platform? This article looks at various types of data to assess the economic impact of Facebook use in the United Kingdom.

Facebook Use and Workplace Productivity

In 2015, a Deloitte study evaluated the economic impact of Facebook use at global level. Researchers found in the UK, Facebook generated $11 billion (nearly £9 billion) and created 154,000 new jobs in areas like marketing, software development, and e-commerce. However, these figures were offset by other statistics that point at the negative impact of social network use. This impact is often quantified by looking at the time spent on social media platforms during what otherwise would be working hours.

Productivity decreases were reported as far back as 2007, three years after the social network was founded. In autumn 2007, the BBC reported on a survey carried out by an employment law firm, which interviewed more than 3,500 British firms and concluded that Facebook use in the workplace resulted in 233 million hours of work lost every month.

In the spring of 2015, a survey interviewed more than 1,000 UK employees and asked them about their social media usage while at work. The survey results revealed that 72 per cent of those interviewed used Facebook during their working day, and that the average time spent of the page was 2 minutes and 22 seconds per session. Considering that the average worker takes part in nearly 14 sessions per day, the cost of social media use in work settings was estimated to be £824 / employee. In the greater scheme of things, the total cost to the UK economy would be approximately £26 billion.

Impact on Employment and Economic Contribution

Although it seems that the negative impact Facebook has on workplace productivity is well established, some have argued that the negative economic costs must be balanced out by taking into account the economic contribution that Facebook is making to the UK economy. For example, a study carried out by Deloitte in 2012 suggested that job creation was one of the main outcomes of the widespread use of this social media tool. According to the study, in order to support an ever-growing number of users, Facebook has created tens of thousands jobs in the United Kingdom, most of which are in app development, advertising, technology sales, and more recently in business media. Overall, the report concluded that the social network’s overall contribution was in the region of £2 billion a year.

Moreover, the Menlo Park Corporation has recently announced its plans to increase its UK staff numbers by 50 per cent once the new London headquarters are operational. This move will bring the total number of staff to over 1,500 people.

In view of the above, it seems reasonable to conclude that productivity losses need to be offset against the tech giant’s economic contribution. Businesses are encouraged to curb productivity issues by placing restrictions and drafting policies that set appropriate use standards with the goal of boosting workplace productivity instead of interfering with it.












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