Meryl Streep and Tom Cruise with laptop in "Lions for Lamps"
Meryl Streep confronts Tom Cruise about his at-work Facebook abuse ... ok, not really (though that would be awesome). It's actually a scene from the 2008 film "Lions for Lambs" and they're probably yackin' about the military-industrial complex or something. Whatever. "Iron Man" is way better.
Helen Popkin
updated 5/23/2008 8:47:23 AM ET 2008-05-23T12:47:23

This just in: A bunch of people don’t think you should be hanging out on Facebook on your company’s dime (and/or server). At least that’s the predominant opinion gleaned from reader responses regarding a recent Netiquette .

The column referenced a recent U.K.-based study which concluded that workers spend at least 30 minutes or more on social networking sites Facebook or MySpace during a typical work day. What’s more, 43 percent of British companies now block access to Facebook and like sites.

Given Facebook’s growing popularity, as well as our ballyhooed Americantake stuff from workentitlement, Netiquette asked readers to tell us what they think. Is it OK to hang out on Facebook? If not, should businesses block social networking sites from their employees?

We also wanted to know about your Facebook-at-work misadventures (preferably of a humorous nature). But most respondents found nothing funny about the topic.

“Would you pay your neighbors $15 to $20 dollars an hour to grocery shop for themselves?” Robert Darrington ofJuneau, AK wrote, pointing out that people generally don’t get paid to tend to their personal needs (unless they’re on a reality show). “If not, why would you expect your employer to pay for your personal social activities?”

That’s a point many readers shared. Basically, do your work at work or the whole system falls apart — the same (albeit tongue-in-cheek) theme of the “Your boss declares martial law on Facebook” column.

In review, Netiquette posited an alternate United States, one much poorer for founding fathers too distracted by social networking on their Sidekicks ever bother putting pen to parchment and compose a petition to King George delineating the colony rights and grievances. With that inspiration perhaps, many respondents went further back in American history, writing responses that read like homages to Puritanism.

“The employee is paid to perform the work of his/her company for a specific number of hours per day/week, and that is what an honest employee does during those hours ... not indulge in personal pursuits on company time!” wrote Joan Smith of Seffner, FL.

Another respondent who identified himself as a former “executive VP at a Fortune 500 company” wrote that back in the day, Internet activity was monitored and employees fired for excessive time spent in cyberspace. “We used to say that they were fired for being patently stupid,” the reader wrote.

“When staff got hired, they were informed of the company's policy and of the fact that their Internet usage and email would be monitored. When a staff member overused the Internet or frequently visited inappropriate sites, they got a warning that included data (how much time they'd spent, the kinds of sites they visited, etc.). It's incredible the number of staff members who still kept it up, and then got themselves fired.”

Meanwhile, “Stromm” irritability pointed out the practicality of limiting on-the-clock social networking. “I’m an I.T. guy and hate that employee's think their work machine is for personal use,” he wrote. “They should be working, not screwing around. When they have been goofing off and mess up their work machine, then they complain that us I.T. guys/gals aren't doing our job by making sure that the work machine won't get messed up.”

Reinforcing Stromm’s response was this cryptic missive from “Net Bot”: “If you hang out at Facebook or MySpace it does not matter because your computer is now a Net Bot and virused to the max. ZZZzzz,,....””

It’s worth pointing out that we received several responses planted firmly in the middle ground, pretty much stating that if you can be a grown up and use in moderation, a little Facebook is good for morale.

“There is no reason why any Web site (other than lewd or pornographic or illegal sites) should be blocked at work,” wrote “Cynthia.”  “People need breaks in the middle of the day to recharge  — or else their brains turn to mush after a while. How many studies have there been done about American workers being stressed to the maximum?”

Other readers concurred. “Turns out that if I meet my objectives and surf, that is just as good as meeting them and not surfing … or going home early … or whatever,” wrote Matt Deter of Rocklin, CA “It's all about the work, not about telling me how to do it."

Guilt, however, rules others even as they continue social networking during work hours. “I just became a part of MySpace a couple months ago,” wrote one reader whose identity Netiquette chooses to protect for the obvious reasons.

“So addicted to the site, was I that I had a nightmare about being reprimanded for spending so much time on there. Since the dream, I have been able to curb my addiction to checking it right before I 'clock in,' during lunch, and right after I 'clock out.' I’m still convinced I’ll get fired if my boss finds out.”

“Dan” pointed out the obvious to all who chose to participate in this Netiquette foray: “The real question is how many of us Americans are currently reading your article while on company time regarding logging into Facebook on company time?”

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