Less time, more meaning: a social media experiment

It’s called social media for a reason, right?

Yet how many times do I find myself scrolling and looking and reading and double-tapping…without even a lick of engagement?

You, too?

(It’s okay, safe space here. ;-)

Sure, someone posts something lovely or tragic on Instagram and you can bet I’ll leave a heartfelt comment (“Three cheers to you on your promotion! So deserved!” or “I’m so sorry to hear about Mr. Tiddlywinks. I know he was a huge part of your family”)—but aside from that, there’s A LOT of thought that goes on in my head when I’m scrolling and reading and liking…and very little of it makes its way into the comments section of anyone’s posts.

Very little of my social media activity is actually social.

What’s the point, then?

(This is how people lose entire hours to an app.)

A few weeks ago, I decided to set up a little experiment.

How can I become more engaged with the people in my feed while simultaneously spending less time on Instagram? I asked myself.

I played around with my phone settings and wound up creating a 15-minute daily limit for myself. I know, I know, 15 minutes seems like nothing. (And compared to my previous activity levels, it really is nothing!)

But 15 minutes a day felt like a good place to start, especially when I considered that my intention was to use less of my time doing this thing, but to use that time more meaningfully.

I became determined to use the minutes that I’m actually in the app to engage with other people, not to numb out or kill time or look at pretty pictures, mindlessly.

And it’s working.

How do I do this?

Easy. When I click on the Instagram app and the feed opens and refreshes itself before me, I engage with the very first post I see. No matter if it’s my cousin or a blogger I’ve admired from afar or Apartment Therapy—I leave a thoughtful comment about what I’m seeing and/or reading.

Then, the post below that. Same deal.

I do this until I start to feel a little spent—which, incidentally (and somewhat hilariously), happens way quicker than those 15 minutes are up, because I’m actually engaged the whole time. My mind is working, my curiosity is fired up, my empathy is tuned in.

I’m socializing. I’m present. I’m meeting the poster’s humanity with my own.

I’m treating these little squares as though they’re people in the room with me, as though a conversation—even the briefest one—is the natural progression of things.

This takes energy—especially for me, a highly sensitive introvert. And it means I’m not seeing as many posts; I’m definitely not keeping up with as many people as before (I do make exceptions; there are some folks whose accounts I check out periodically, whether or not they showed up in my feed, and I don’t always leave comments there when I do; baby steps!). But I feel more connected on the whole…and I feel as though I’m using my time better, more meaningfully, and with intention.