Is the Internet Making Us Less Efficient?

Mooooo! Duuuude! Mooooo!Slashdot recently ran a story saying that a company called Websense said in a press release that the Internet has made workers less efficient and that web surfing at work results in losses to American companies of $178 billion every year. I found this report quite disturbing, and I decided to take a look into the situation myself. I'm a firm believer in going straight to the source, so I decided to spend some time looking around the Internet to see if I could determine whether it actually reduces efficiency.

9:00 a.m.

My first stop is news sites, thinking that if there is useful information anywhere on the web, it would be there. I certainly find it difficult to believe that online news could be a time-waster, as it's everyone's job in a democracy to be well-informed. Wanting to be thorough, I decide to have a quick look at the major online news sites.

10:30 a.m.

After looking at 22 online newspapers, I think I have a pretty good sense of the sort of information that's available online which could be helpful for workers, both for research and for staying well-informed. I decide to have a look at the links I've collected more closely.

10:35 a.m.

The CBC reports that the Canadian government is considering purchasing bomb-proof desks for its foreign embasies. Well, first thing out of the gate and we've already located information online about important advances helping to keep workers safe. It certainly seems that this would be useful information for workers to have access to. The report states that the government tester subjected the bomb-proof desks to extreme tests, using 110 kilograms of dynamite in an effort to destroy theme. The desks weathered the mock attack in very good shape, but unfortunately the dummies meant to represent workers were 'seriously damaged' in the test. So, um, that's good... for workers... and stuff....

10:42 a.m.

MSNBC reports that a herd of cattle in Russia will be fed marijuana all Winter this year, after their normal feed crops were destroyed in a drug raid. Russian officials admit that the quality of the milk may be someone suspect. They say they plan to import the milk to American university campuses. Asked to comment, a representative for the cows said, quote: "Woa, dude...mooooo."

10:47 a.m.

The BBC reports that scientists have developed technology that might be used to build a 'thought-reading computer'. According to one of my reputable sources ("Moo!"), the scientists have been heard to say: "We're tired of dealing with incompetant government officials and an apathetic public, so we've decided to do something about it. We're hoping that we can use this mind-reading technology to eventually take control of the entire populous and create a utopia of mindless zombies, kind of like the 1950's, but without TV." One wonders what the place of the modern worker would be in this new society. The reports are unclear on this point. Moving right along.

10:56 a.m. reports that Pat Robertson wants to Kill Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuala, for being a communist terrorist. He suggests either a strategic U.S. Special Forces strike or simply smiting him down from on high with righteous fury. Actually, the mindless zombie thing's not looking so bad. Time to refocus.

11:03 a.m.

I decide to hop onto instant messenger and check with some friends about sites they find interesting, things they're looking at online at work. I am very curt on instant messenger, since I know that it can be a terrible time-waster itself and I want to avoid that at all costs. The Associated Press recently ran a story about a man in New Zealand who spent so long talking about Paris Hilton online that he lost the ability to stand upright and had to be taken out and shot (link available upon request).

11:04 a.m.

My friend Rick sends me to the The Official Ninja Webpage. The site contains a great deal of useful cross-cultural information, inside information about Asian martial arts which might give strong insights into traditional Japanaese culture and fascilitate overseas business relationships. A quote: "Ninjas are sooooooooooo sweet that I want to crap my pants." Um... yeah... right.

11:09 a.m.

I tell him to think harder and he suggests two more sites, the first of which tells you how to successfully call in sick to work and the latter of which tells you the best way to quit your job. I tell Rick that he's missing the point and to hurry up and give me something helpful, something that tells us whether the Internet is making us less efficient, because the last thing we'd want to do is waste everyone's time going on and on about something silly. Realising how serious my commitment is to this project, he suggests the following article on

11:12 a.m. reports that interim U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta has decided to make his office's priority to stamp out obscenity, specifically Internet pornography. Now we're talking! This must be where time at work is getting eaten up, people looking at pornography during work hours. Now our research is paying off. Wanting, once again, to go straight to the source, I decide to have a look at some Internet pornography, to get a sense of just how it might be eating up our productive time.

4:46 p.m.

After taking a very thorough look at several Internet porn sites, and following a short nap, I believe I have a good sense of how the American worker could waste time there. Some workers could probably waste their lives there.

Well, that's the best we can do today on the question of whether the Internet is making workers less efficient, as we're out of time. Be sure to join us next time when we investigate a burning issue of value. Just as soon as I think of one. Right now I have a lot of work to catch up on.

Steve Sharam

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Websense is just trying to get you to buy

Websense is a company that sells software to companies that blocks websites and tracks employee internet usage. Of course their "research" would detail how much productivity is lost by not using their software. :-)

It's easy to see that the benefits of having the internet (ie. easy lookup of information) far out way the costs.