Less (social media) is not always more (productivity)

2020 - 2023

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Joint work with Jason Chan.

This paper is currently under major revision at Information Systems Research.

This paper (SSRN) has won two awards:

  • Best Paper Award at the 2022 International Conference on Information Systems (ICIS), General IS Track
  • Best Student Paper Award at the 2022 Workshop on Information Technologies and Systems (WITS)


Using social media excessively during work hours occupies precious work time. Social media overuse at work is becoming prevalent across the globe, hurting the productivity of millions of social media users. To recoup work time, many users turn to social media blockers, which rely on users to specify a blocking configuration. However, user-chosen configurations tend not to produce the intended benefits due to the lack of guidelines.


To provide the first set of evidence-based guidelines on the usage of social media blockers, we examine two dimensions of blocking configuration:

  1. block intensity, pertaining to the amount of social media usage should be reduced
  2. block immediacy, involving a new design called gradual block that gradually increases the block intensity as opposed to immediately enforcing the target block intensity (the status quo design).

We conducted a randomized experiment lasting four weeks, during which we collected fine-grained computer usage data to allow us to measure work time.


  1. While the partial block of social media increases work time, the complete block of social media decreases work time. Furthermore, the treatment effect varies with the users’ intraday social media consumption patterns on a user-time level.
  2. The new gradual block feature exerts positive impacts on work time, and its effects increase with the user-time-specific social media usage levels.
  3. There is a nuanced three-way interaction effect between block intensity, block immediacy, and social media consumption levels.

Implications of our findings to theory and practice are discussed.

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