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Virtual Friends In The Workplace and Friendster are two popular sites for meeting people online, and they're being accessed at work.

We're hearing about heavy workplace use of cyberdating and online friends' networks. There are more than 600 million Internet users worldwide. You can imagine how many are lonely and looking for love in all the Web-places--and how many are doing that from the workplace.

With more than 9 million active users, about 10% of whom are paid subscribers ($24.95 per month), is the father of all cyberdating sites. According to a recent survey it conducted of about 6,000 users, 13.5% admitted to using from work. If the same percentage proved accurate for all 9 million active users, more than 1 million people are using from work. And while the survey may give us a sense of what percentage of people are accessing from work, it doesn't provide information about how much time they're spending there from work. And that's only one of the hundreds of popular cyberdating sites. Often, cyberdaters register and review potential suitors on several dating sites. Multiply their surfing by two or three to find the real time drain.

Take Parry Aftab's Cyberloafing Survey

What about friend networks? Following in the wake of the incredibly successful U.K. site, Friends United, the U.S.-based is becoming a hot new site. With millions of registered members, Friendster allows its users to link up to other users and related groups. Similar to the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game, where players can find that everyone in Hollywood is connected within six degrees to the actor, Friendster lets you add your friends to your group, and through them, their friends. You find yourself quickly connected to thousands of other members through your friends' friends and their friends. Interestingly, Friendster manages to solve the false-identity plight of many other sites, since your real identity is crucial to your being able to find others you know and who know you. There are fewer "Bill Gates" and "Britney Spears" at this site than others.

Friendster started out as an online relationship site but has quickly turned into a popular pastime, where members search for long-lost friends and schoolmates. Recently, however, Friendster has become a victim of its own success. Media reports about the site have spiked new registrations, and access is now slower and being able to upload pictures is impossible at times. But surfing for friends and famous people at the site can eat up hours, during work and after.

A young woman I know who works in the entertainment industry spends hours a day at the site inviting friends to join. While she laments the recent media coverage of the site and claims that its recent press has resulted in slower access and uploads, she continues to be a loyal fan. She has invited so many of her friends to join her on Friendster that she violated their terms of service by exceeding a limit on the number of invites any member can send out over a certain duration. She had to wait several days before she could return to her invitation activities. But undaunted, she's proud that she's now connected to more than 20,000 other Friendster members one way or another, including one of her invitees--me. And the more people you're connected to, the higher your "status" on the site. She has learned that the key to getting the most connections is finding some way to add other popular Friendster users to your friends' list. How many work hours did it take to become such an expert in this new site? Only her employer knows for sure.

Return to main story: Cyberloafing's Drain On Productivity

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