Why we all need to be more intentional with social media
Do you often find yourself mindlessly scrolling through Instagram (or any platform with a recommendation-based algorithm)? Scrolling for what feels like hours, only to look up at the clock and verify that it has in fact, been hours. It's fine to admit it, no judgement here because we're pretty much all guilty of it. It is too easy to get lost in the sauce of scrolling through social media.
"If you aren’t paying for the product, you are the product." This is a popular phrase that perfectly describes the world of social media, and in this case, Instagram. On the surface, Instagram appears to be a "free" social platform, but in reality, the platform makes money through its users and our time spent on the app.
This is achieved by displaying advertisements on users' feeds and recording their actions after viewing the ads. And the more time users spend on the platform, the more advertising they can be exposed to, thus making the platform more profitable, as the user becomes more predictable.
The business model is all about getting as much of our attention as possible. Have you ever
found yourself losing hours scrolling through the app, only to feel empty and unsatisfied afterwards? Again, you are not alone.
The algorithm is designed in a way that wants to keep us scrolling and spending more and more time on the app which can lead us to the comparison game (and they say comparison is the thief of joy).
A direct quote from Sean Parker, (the first President of Facebook):
“it’s a social-validation feedback loop... exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.”
The algorithm is designed to get as much attention from a user as possible. It does this as it filters content based on our history on the app, so the more we interact with certain content, the more of that type of content we will continue to be filtered on our feed.
Every action we make on the platform is tracked, monitored, recorded, and measured. The algorithm is so powerful that it can correctly predict what emotions trigger a user and can filter content that is likely to evoke those emotions (reminder: Facebook published research proving that it can change voter turnout and that it can make people sad). This leads to a vicious cycle of spending more and more time on the app and being exposed to an overload of stimuli.
A direct quote from Chamath Palihapitiya, (a former Vice President of user growth at Facebook):
“The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works... this is a global problem.... I feel tremendous guilt. And I don’t have a good solution. My solution is I just don’t use these tools anymore. I haven’t for years.”
More than ever children and society are more anxious, fragile and depressed. Since 2011, the rate of young girls being sent to the emergency room due to self-inflicted pain has increased dramatically to 62% in girls between the ages of 15-19 and 189% in girls between the ages of 10-14. This is the same pattern in suicide rates. Suicide rates have increased by 70% in girls between the ages of 15-19 and 151% in girls between the ages of 10-14. All patterns point to social media (the Social Dilemma Documentary Film, 2020).
What can we do?
While we may not have much control over the algorithm, we do have control over the content we see and interact with on our feed and Explore page. By continuing to interact with certain content, our feed will eventually be filtered (and overloaded) with similar content. And with so much content available, it's hard to retain even half of it at this point. So, here are some tips on how to be more intentional with your time on social media while also still enjoying it.
Set intentions: Before opening Instagram (or any app), take a moment to ask yourself, "what do I want to achieve on here today?" Having a clear goal in mind will bring purpose and clarity to your time on the app. Maybe you want to post a new update, engage with others, respond to DMs, or simply just to scroll. Determine your purpose and stick to it.
Take breaks: It's important to remember that you can't pour from an empty cup. Make sure to take time for yourself. Take a break from the screen and practice self-care. This will help you perform better and provide exceptional work for yourself, your customers and clients. Set a routine and stick to it, and keep it mind that it’s important to fill your own cup first before you can properly serve others.
Practice being more intentional in terms of your relationship with social media. Here are a few tips to help you be more intentional with how you use socials and overall remaining more present in the moment:
Meditate for 10-20 minutes to calm your mind (before you get on social media)
Slow down and focus on one task at a time; practice monotasking. Use your calendar to keep track of your schedule and prioritize your tasks.
Limit your screen time and unfollow accounts that drain your energy or make you feel bad about yourself
Go for a walk and clear your mind, leave your phone behind and enjoy outdoors
Reflect on the day by journaling and acknowledging your thoughts and feelings without judging them
Determine a strategy: Think about the type of content you want to post and what content converts. Read this blog for more.
Come up with a schedule: It's important to make the most of your time on social media. Set a schedule that works for you and your lifestyle. For example, if you want to spend 1.5 hours on Instagram, break that up into 20-minute increments throughout the day. This will give you control over your time on the app and help you avoid mindless scrolling.
In conclusion, Instagram (and most social media platforms) is a money-making conglomerate, just like any other business. Its algorithm is designed to keep users engaged and spending more time on the platform to maximize advertising revenue. While it may be difficult to “beat the algorithm,” users can become aware and begin to control the content they see on their own feed and the time they spend on the app. But remember, the goal of the platform is to make money, not to enhance a person’s social life, that’s up to you to take control of that part.
Chief Creative Officer