Social Media: tool or trap?

It is concerning to look at facts about how much time people spend on social media nowadays. I plead guilty to the same charge, as I spend an enormous amount of time scrolling through my Facebook news feed to see what my friends are up to, or simply looking at stories in Snapchat to procrastinate. This brings me to the question: How many people actually know how to use social media platforms effectively?

These are the facts:

Time spent on social in a lifetime


As social media platforms become more complex and continue adding new features, users become more engaged to spend larger portions of the days looking at their smartphone screens. Some of the most recent characteristics adopted by social media platforms are live streaming and 360 degree photos. These are features specifically designed to attract the user to stay longer interacting with new content from other users. As others are posting live videos, you become more conscious that you have to remain active on the platform if you do not want to miss out on what other friends or celebrities are doing as this happens in real time. These platforms are aware that the more users per period of time that they manage to entertain, the higher the revenue stream coming from advertisements that are hidden between your content of interest. Hence, as users we have to remain aware that the job of the coders is to make us spend our time on the platform even if we are not using effectively.

The average person spends approximately 2 hours per day on the most popular social platforms, which is the same as 5 years and 4 months in a lifetime. At first, this statistic comes as a surprise considering all the things that you could do in that time; however it is also important to consider the time we are saving from other activities that we no longer do as often. For example, I cannot remember the last time I sat in my coach to watch TV passing the channels bored because I could not find something entertaining to watch. Now you know what TV show is trending because all the information is on social media and you can go straight to Netflix or Apple TV to find the content. You no longer have to spend hours in front of the TV waiting for your favorite show to start.


Furthermore, new information and news become more accessible for people in all groups of ages. Even the younger people are aware of what is going on in the political, economic and social environments so they are able to participate in discussions that further develop the understanding of the world and create an understating of the most urgent needs for society. Regardless of what generation you are part of, it has become easier to find news of interest and follow important stories/companies/businessman/celebrities/movements, which means that you do not have to spend so much time filtering the content that you receive from different media sources. Even though we are spending more time in social media, we are saving time on other time wasting activities if we know how to use the tool in a smart way.


Think about the time that people used to spend organizing events. Whether it was a wedding, a birthday party, or just a casual meeting with friends from school, it was a real time commitment to organize a simple plan; not to mention something more complex with plenty of people such as a pacific manifestation or parade. Imagine all the time that someone would spend putting the invitations together or calling all the guests on by one, while now you can simply create an event on Facebook and send hundreds of invites in a couple of minutes. Social media platforms serve as a communication tool that allows for logistics of an event to be simpler than ever. Even communist governments such as China and North Korea know that social media is a powerful tool to get large masses of people together, which is why they prefer to ban these platforms across the country. As a result, even if people are progressively spending more time in social media, they capacities of this technology are also expanding.

Forbes columnist Dan Matthews says:

“The problem I am describing is that it’s very easy to mistake building a social media presence that is professional and helps your career, for a mechanism that massages your ego every day. It’s too easy to waste precious time looking for ‘well done’ signals from your peer group instead of doing things online that genuinely produce results.”

In other words, people do not know how to use social media effectively because we prefer to do things that will boost our ego, such as getting more likes/shares/views rather than creating real impact. This is the real issue of the time that we spend on social media: we are not using our time wisely. In fact, social platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram know that it is addictive to check how many people has viewed your story or how many people have liked your new picture. Therefore, they continue adding these features that make you spend time inefficiently, and in turn, more users will attract more review from ads. As smart users, we must remember that their job (social media coders) is to make us spend more time on the platform, and our job is to use social media to simplify our daily tasks and share our opinion to make other readers reflect; thereby, creating knowledge in the process.





  1. Great post! Never realized how much time exactly I spend on social media. Its actually pretty terrifying. People spend time on social media because it provides pleasure, but it seems that staying active on all social media platforms is more like work for many people these days. It will be interesting to see if people will begin to spend less time on social media because of the work you have to put into it, which would ultimately result in consolidation within the social media industry.

  2. Getting at the point in your last paragraph, I wonder how people would respond if you asked them the reasons they actually use social media. When I first started using Facebook (10 some odd years ago), I think I probably used it for the ego boost that attention brought. This was arguably my primary use for social media. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that I’m decidedly posting/interacting less and observing more in an effort to stay connected but without wanting to draw attention to myself. I think that may ultimately end up being one of the biggest challenges for social media companies: how to keep people engaged once the novelty of the platform has worn off over time.

  3. Nice post. I do suspect, however, that we’re not that far off from being on social media 24/7. In fact, you could argue that we are close to that already right now, as your mobile device is constantly pinging your location to various places. It’s just that we’re using that 24-7 presence in limited ways right now.

  4. laurencondon23 · ·

    This was a really eye opening post for me. While I see your point that social media is allowing us to save time we used to waste on other activities, such as watching commercials and planning events, the 5 years and 4 months over the course of a life time is a startling fact. At the end of my life, I suspect I would give everything to have had an additional 5 years and 4 months to spend with my family and friends that I instead used to keep up my social media presence.

  5. zfarkas17 · ·

    This was an awesome post. Scary to see how much time the average person is spending on different social media platforms. I would argue though that instead of saving time I would have otherwise be wasting it is the opposite, I now spend more time watching netflix or staring at facebook instead of reading or other activities.

  6. drewsimenson · ·

    This is THE critical question about social media, from our desired standpoint of business leadership. We must remain highly aware of our activity on social media and be honest with ourselves about the true value of the results. You identified the ego element; there seems to be a lot to this. It is an active struggle not to let ego be the driving force behind social media activity, and the nature of our individual psyches is such that even the most humble among us probably need to remain vigilant against the seduction of doing things for the sake of praise. Ironically, I will say: Well done!

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