Do you always complain you never have time for anything? That once you get home, you do some house chores, sit down and the evening is gone, it’s already time for bed? Because for a long time, that’s exactly what I used to do. Until I changed how I used my time after work, and that’s how I got to understand the opportunity cost of social media.
First of all, what does “opportunity cost” mean? It is defined as
“The loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen.“
In other words, it is basically what you have to give up on to get or do something else. For example, by going partying before an exam, you are giving up on the time you need to revise. Or else, if you’re reading, you give up on that time to study. If you scroll Instagram, it is just the same. And as you may have probably noticed, Instagram and social media have in general a very high opportunity cost.
Social media is like a drug isn’t it. The more you get into it and engage with content, the more you need to do it. Why? Because social media, especially Instagram, bases the value of your content and your value as a user mostly on the engagement you receive, which is influenced by the engagement you give. The more you like and comment, the more people engage with your content, the more they’ll go onto your profile, the more the algorithm will get you seen.
But what happen if one day you forget to post? Or engage slightly less? Well… Instagram does not like inconsistency so you are back at the back of the line, and need to start it all over again. Hence, you don’t stop. Exhausting, isn’t it?
And scary… since Instagram now tells you how long you’ve spent on the app each day. Which kind of make you think. Social media is great, but don’t you have other things to do with this time? Engaging is cool and all, but you could also be doing other things… that you might like more than social media.
Because engaging less does not mean you will get less engagement in return. No. If you engage less but engage better and more consistently, you’ll get just as much in return, maybe even more. As a matter of fact, liking loads of pictures without never commenting won’t get you noticed. What if instead of liking 5 photos, you like maybe 2 and dropped a comment? Just as efficient.
But to go back to the opportunity cost of social media… It is so high! Not because it costs you money or physical energy, but because it costs you time. So much time. Time that you don’t really see flying.
You think you’ve just spent 10 minutes on Instagram, scrolling down your feed and liking photos? Mate, no, you just spent an hour doing so! It just does not feel like it. Why? Because who would admit to spend that much time on social media? For a long time, I would not admit that social media was most of my life, that I’d spend so much time on there or spend days just engaging.
I mean, with the controversy around the blogging industry, blogging as a full-time job, people making fun of bloggers, sometimes it is hard to talk about it. Because you know, to non social media folks, non bloggers, etc, well… It’s kinda weird that you spend so much time on an app. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. No one is criticizing you for spending 8 hours at work or the whole day reading, so why criticize someone spending 8 hours on social media? Especially of it’s their job.
However, as I put some distance between me and blogging, I realized how much time I was spending on Instagram alone. Always liking, commenting and engaging. Especially when it comes to my old Instagram, that had such a bad engagement, it required engaging constantly with a lot of people. So I gave myself a break, started a new Instagram and explained why in this post.
Starting my new Instagram allowed me to realize how much time I spend on social media and how much time I could have spent doing something else. I do not think it is about being less on Instagram. However, I do think it is about re-thinking your use of the app. I will not encourage you to stop doing what you like or something you need to do for your work. No, never. Yet, I will encourage you to re-strategize.
Write down the time you spend on the app each day. Next, right the type of use you’ve made of Instagram each day. Liking, commenting, following people, scrolling, checking out hashtags. Are all of those things really worth the time and energy? Is scrolling mindlessly for hours really worth it? Wouldn’t it be better to scroll just an hour but like content you love and drop meaningful comments while doing it?
When I started my new Instagram, I gave myself rules. I will not spend more than 2 hours on social media per day and I will not mindlessly scroll down my feed. I spend 30 minutes each morning engaging with people I follow while I am having breakfast. Plus, I spend 15 minutes engaging with people I do not follow through hashtags (i.e. #shinyhappybloggers, averybookishpost, reallifeandstyle, etc). If I am in the mood during lunch, I will engage with new posts on my feed and maybe with new people through hashtags again.
I tend to stay away from my phone in the evening. Since most people I follow are UK based, and because of the time difference, when the clock reaches 7 for me, you guys are all asleep so there won’t be any new photos on my feed to engage with anyway.
If I am in the mood in the evening, and have nothing else to do, I might go engage with photos in a particular hashtags.
But overall, with those rules in mind, as well as using a scheduling tools (Planoly) when it comes to posting photos, I have been spending way less time on social media than I used too. I always try to switch off all devices around 10 or 11pm so that I have at least an hour screen free before I go to bed.
Which helped improve my sleep massively. But also… gave me so much more time to do other things! Like reading. From January to April, I might have read two books, one of which being a re-read. From May to July, I have read at least fifteen books. Overall, my engagement really improved, growth is somewhat steady and I have much more free time on my hands.
Spending less time on Instagram also allowed me to actively start Youtube. I am not scrolling, I am filming. Or writing. Or exploring NYC. And even, actively watching TV shows. Not have them in the background while I am on the app, no, watch them and follow everything that is going on. Which I didn’t do before.
After checking Instagram for my time on the app, my average is 1 hour and 23 minutes per day. So again, it is absolutely not about stopping using the app, or stopping engaging. No. I could not insist more on this. It is about re-thinking your use of it so that you use Instagram in a more productive and effective way while saving time for other things that you enjoy doing or want to start doing more of.
Because social media has a very high opportunity cost. It is time consuming, time that you don’t see fleeing but time that you could use more productively by re-thinking how you use the app and engage with content. More meaningful engagement will get you better engagement on your own content in return and leave you free time to do other things. Engage less but engage better. Quality over quantity.
Of course, like everyone else, I am not always in the mood for being meaningful and productive all the time. So yes, some days, I just like all the photos on my feed and do not comment. We’re only humans after all.
What’s your opinion on the opportunity cost of social media? How much time to you spend on Instagram? Do you feel like you’re spending too much time? Are you trying to re-think your use of the app?
Thanks a lot for stopping by. I hope you liked this post.
See you soon,