First though, can I just stop and say part of me dislikes even having this conversation? I am usually in the social media camp of “don’t make it into a big deal – just enjoy it for what it is and move on.” I can get frustrated with the sway it seems to hold over so many of us, and how we spend entirely too much time thinking about it. It’s not worth that much of our time and attention!!
On the other hand, social media is here to stay and I am certainly not perfect at keeping it in a healthy place, and so I wanted to share something that has really been helping me lately:
The first week of January, I switched to using Instagram once a day. During the work week, I sign into the app when I break for my lunch. I scroll through recent posts, I post anything to my feed or stories that I’d like to share, and I respond to any comments or messages that have come in. Depending on whether I’m posting anything that day or whether I’ve posted anything recently, this can take between 10-30 minutes. Once I’ve done everything I need to do, I sign out of my account – and that’s it until the next day!
At the beginning of the year, fresh off my PowerSheets prep work and fired up to tackle a pain point in a new way, I committed to trying this for one week. Like many of you, I was frustrated with myself for reaching for my phone too often during my work day. (And since there’s nothing that interesting on my phone except Instagram, this was definitely an Instagram problem!) For a long time, I’ve used the excuse of my work being online to check in multiple times a day, but no one was asking me to do that – at most, I’m being asked to maintain a nominal presence. That fresh 2020 feeling had me motivated to try something radical to shake me out of my bad habit.
Why just once a day? For me, a harder boundary is often easier than doing something “less.” By committing to a hard boundary of just once a day, I reduced the number of times I asked my brain to decide whether or not I was going to open the app. Decision fatigue is real, and I’d rather keep my willpower for other things!
The result of this one-week experiment: I loved it so much that I don’t ever foresee myself going back! Here are three positives I noticed after the first week:
No. 1: I was less distracted during my work day. I expected this one, and it delivered! At the beginning of the week, I’d find myself habitually reaching for my phone. Instead of spending a few seconds or minutes scrolling to see what was new each time (they add up!), I’d just put my phone back down once I remembered I was signed out and continue on with my work. (By the end of the week, I had broken that pick-up habit completely.)
Without these interruptions, I was able to sink deeper into work and felt more satisfaction with what I had accomplished each day. I don’t actually know if I was accomplishing any more, but my experience of my days felt better.
No. 2: I was much more likely to engage deeply with posts. Friends, I was putting the social back in social media! Whether leaving a comment or simply reading posts more deeply and gleaning what I could from them, my time on Instagram was suddenly more fun and meaningful. Just like a budget, I felt like I was directing my time and attention, and so I was free to enjoy the time I intentionally allocated to the app instead of guiltily scrolling as quickly as possible before getting back to what I was really supposed to be doing.
No. 3: I was using my “fringe hours” with more intention. The bookends at the beginning and end of my day (the 15-30 minutes before I pick my kiddos up or after I drop them off at preschool) were much more productive and joyful. Instead of chasing a rabbit trail on Instagram, I used that time to do something that made the rest of our day run smoother: starting dinner prep, running a quick errand, catching up on personal email. Knowing I used that time well instead of being frustrated with myself for wasting it put me in a great headspace to jump right into having fun once we were all back together.
Worth mentioning: even with only signing on once a day, I didn’t feel like I was missing anything! (I even caught most stories!) It’s also worth mentioning that I only follow about 50 people, so it’s reasonable for me to catch up on each and every post in just a few minutes.
Friends, all in all, this felt like an almost unfair trade: I gained several amazing benefits, and I gave up nothing in return. If you’re struggling with your experience with Instagram, I’d highly recommend giving this a try! What have you got to lose? :)
Now, I’d love to hear: are you tired of people talking about how they use social media (usually while on social media, ha), or do you crave resources and new ideas with how to engage in a healthy way? Have you found a way that works for you?
P.S. The approach I’ve described here refers to my public account. As many of you know, I also have a personal account for family. I still am on that account in the evening with no hard boundaries around my use, but since there are only 2-3 new posts a day from the people I follow, there’s no compulsion to check it often. Plus, at home in the evening it’s easy to keep my phone tucked away and out of arm’s reach. More here.