The number of users of the social networking site Facebook was 840,000 in the UAE in August last year, while the number of Twitter users was 5,778, which represents 40 per cent of total users in the Mena, a report by Ecco International said.
As a keen enthusiast for social media, I did not immediately see the potential stress effects of this great digital innovation of published, user-generated content, which has been called, by some, the biggest leap forward since printing.
But it wasn't long before my stress consultancy was dealing with work-related stress from office workers who found that it was too much to cope with.
And I realised that not only the sheer scale of social media, but its particular growth characteristics, would set up new challenges for HR departments, with a need for new stress management techniques.
After logging-on to a social networking site, you are immediately invited to connect to other associated links. Without thinking about it, you agree to receive a weekly newsletter, which in turn exposes you to further blogs and their embedded hyperlinks.
Entering into this seductive world of intimate sharing of information, you have probably already revealed your email address, picture and other personal details of yourself and your circle of friends and family to millions of people all over the world.
And that means you will certainly be facing a great deal of information overload in the days and weeks ahead.
The other side of the problem is the internal pressure, the addictiveness of logging-on during the day, either in the office or at home, to check what your friends are doing.
One long-serving manager had come across an old database from 20 years ago, with thousands of names on it, many of them familiar to him.
Out of interest, he decided to try to track them down through the networking sites. For about three weeks, he just couldn't concentrate on anything else.
It was as though he'd found a new toy.
In a great many cases, people tend to lose track of time, and find that their work is suffering, as a consequence. Sometimes with unfortunate results.
I know of at least one manager and two office workers who have all lost their jobs as a result of unauthorised web surfing on social media sites. So be warned!
My advice is to try to get over the ‘new toy' stage, and use social media in a controlled manner.
Yes, it's miraculous what you can do and see, and learn at the touch of a button. But self-control is a necessity particularly when your employer is paying for your services to be full-time during office hours.
Adopt healthy habits
- Be selective about networking groups and sign-off from the ones you aren't using.
- Avoid an information overload. Don't automatically share all information for the sake of it.
- Don't pressurise. You don't need to add the ‘Hurry hurry' messages, which adds to workplace stress.