Social media activity can make it worse at your job, says a new study that evaluated how viewing social media posts from people having fun negatively affects the work that accountants do as part of an audit.
“We were concerned about the effect of social media on how people think about themselves and what that can mean for performance in the workplace,” says Summer Williams, a co-author of the study and associate professor of psychology at Westfield State University.
“For example, on social media, we see other people sharing the best parts of their lives. That can skew our perceptions of the quality of our lives relative to other people’s lives. We wanted to know how that might interfere with the quality of job performance, “says Stephen Kuselias, corresponding author of the study and assistant professor of accounting at Providence College.
In an experiment conducted with 56 auditors from four international accounting firms, study participants were asked to evaluate the suitability of a myriad of materials to serve as evidence in an audit. They were also divided into three groups, each of which interacted with different social media content.
Group A was shown pictures of people having fun in public places. Group B was shown pictures of the same places, but without people having fun. And Group C saw the same images that Group A saw, but they were also shown job-related posts. The researchers found that some interactions on social media had a pronounced effect on the study participants.
“Specifically, we found that viewing images of people engaged in social activities made study participants worse when it came to gathering relevant evidence for an audit,” says Kuselias. This could be due to fear of missing something (FOMO), a popular term in conversations about psychology and the Internet. However, the researchers also found that viewing work-related content on their social media mitigated the effect of viewing social images.
“These findings are important to business in general, not just accounting,” says Williams. “It shows experimentally that the use of social networks affects the way people do their work.” Additionally, the researchers say the effect they saw on job performance would likely be magnified if workers looked at their actual social media accounts.
The researchers admit that there is no realistic way for companies to control employee access to social media at work. However, they hope the study will raise awareness of how social media can affect our ability to do our jobs. “This work adds to what other studies have found about the adverse impact social media has on stress, emotions, and other aspects of our lives that can affect us in the workplace,” says Williams.
“We know from previous research that people’s interaction with social media influences how they think and feel, as well as how they feel about those around them. Our study suggests that these perceptions can influence job performance of individuals. professionals with implications for the quality of their work, “says John Lauck, study co-author and assistant professor of accounting at Louisiana Tech University. The document, “Social Media Content and Social Comparisons: An Experimental Examination of Their Effect on Audit Quality,” appears in Auditing: A Journal of Practice and Theory, published by the American Accounting Association.