The Opportunity Cost Of Social Media

opportunity cost of social media

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 time-consuming.

So time-consuming.

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.

opportunity cost of social media opportunity cost of social media opportunity cost of social media

Shop my outfit
Denim jacket – Romwe*
Dress – Romwe*
Straw Bag – Shein*
Wedges – H&M

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,

*Gifted items.


  1. Jess
    July 25, 2019 / 12:52 pm

    This was such an interesting read. Like you, I was shocked at how much time I actually spent on social media. I’m now working on reducing that and upping my productivity!

    The Crown Wings | UK Travel & Lifestyle Blog

  2. July 29, 2019 / 4:09 pm

    This is such a thought provoking post and very eye opening too – I definitely spend way too much time on my phone but interestingly enough, it’s not on social media but reading on Tumblr or other things. I used to be addicted to Instagram but have taken a step back and have noticed I’m way happier and feel less pressure when I do happen to post. I think you have the right strategy down, using it more effectively and consciously is healthier and in the end leads to better results all round. Thanks for sharing!

  3. July 29, 2019 / 4:10 pm

    Totally agree, sometimes it feels like I have no time but if you added up the amount of time I spend on Twitter or YouTube that could be put to so much better use!

  4. July 29, 2019 / 4:14 pm

    This was a really interesting post to read, I definitely spend a lot of time in my phone and on social media, it can be hard not to when you have a blog. I feel like to do need to set myself some rules for the evening and to not be on my phone so much! X

  5. July 29, 2019 / 4:16 pm

    Wow this is really interesting. You made some valid points! Never thought about that but it’s true. We do somehow have to give up something to get something, when it shouldn’t be that way.♥️♥️

  6. July 29, 2019 / 4:29 pm

    That is an interesting read and something I had never really thought about. Especially Instagram seems to super tough, and as someone who doesn’t use it a lot – I think my app said 20 minutes per day, mostly on the train and tube -, I can tell you that the app complains when you don’t use it a lot as well. It’s so weird. I just hope that I use it efficiently 😉

    I wish you the best of luck for YouTube and I hope it’s fun 🙂

  7. July 29, 2019 / 4:59 pm

    I agree with you!! ??????? I kinda went through something similar ??

    Corinne when I first started my insta in 2016, I was on my phone for hours. I was obsessed with growing my account and leaving empty comments to get likes in return…it did nothing for me. Last year I deleted all my photos except my best 12 and kinda started over. I gave myself a 30 minute limit and focused on genuine engagement. My account started to grow. It’s kinda funny, I put in hours of effort and I landed nowhere. But when I put in less time and stopped caring, my insta flourished!

    Thanks for sharing this, I just know people will benefit from your wisdom??

    Natonya |

  8. July 29, 2019 / 6:09 pm

    It’s amazing how much you’ve reduced your social media usage by! I find it so easy to fall down a rabbit hole on Facebook. Go on to check on a comment and one hour later I’m doing quizzes to see what Brooklyn 99 character I am! ?

    Ashleigh |

  9. July 29, 2019 / 7:29 pm

    People outside of the industry fail to see how much time it takes to remain consistent! It certainly isn’t accomplished overnight!

  10. July 29, 2019 / 10:05 pm

    This is such an interesting post. I love your new rules for yourself and the fact that time difference helps is a huge perk. I feel like we’re constantly being told to engage, engage, engage to grow so thanks for highlighting a way to do it and be more proactive with your time x


  11. July 29, 2019 / 10:38 pm

    I read this post from start to finish and it really made me think. I love Instagram and engaging with other people’s content, but recently it feels as though it’s becoming a chore. I don’t scroll Instagram happily and leave a thoughtful comment on a post I genuinely love, I’m almost commenting so they’ll comment back (which is so SAD to admit.) I never thought I’d become one of these people! I’m really thinking about leaving the insta pods/support groups I’m in. Yes, my engagement may drop at first but it’ll overall create a more authentic and real place for me and my content, with people who genuinely love what I post. What do you think? Also my Instagram is @_girlvsworld_ if you’d like to follow each other! 🙂 xx

    • whatcorinnedid
      July 30, 2019 / 1:36 pm

      I think, you need to do what is best for you. I used to be in engagement pods and support groups and it was taking so much of my time. Time I could have used for other things. Also, it is sort of fake engagement since those people would not have loved your content if they had not been part of the pod. It also did make Instagram feel like a chore and I think it also really ruined my instagram performances overall. So yes, moving away from those will make your engagement more authentic. Taking a step back, changing how i engage and how much time I do it really helped me feel better and save time for other things. =)

  12. July 30, 2019 / 11:51 am

    I don’t spend too much time on Instagram specifically. But Twitter is a nightmare for me. I hate the screen time app because it makes me feel sick how much time I’ve been on my phone sometimes!

  13. August 1, 2019 / 10:44 am

    This post is just on point. It has turned into kind of a taboo to express the issues related to blogging as a business, but they are there. Anything that might help mental health, whether is cutting down on social media time or else, should be always considered. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts!

  14. September 20, 2019 / 11:16 am

    I feel like I’m getting tired of IG. Not only I don’t find it THAT inspiring anymore, but it’s also pretty shitty when it comes to growing. Like you said, you have to be consistent and that takes a lot of time — not just posting, but actually engaging with other people’s content. Often times I find myself wonder why I even bother, if it’s clear I won’t grow (at least in my country) unless I have connections with x and y influencer from my city.

    Flor |

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