​A Social Experiment

Kasey Schumaker

a social experiment—kasey schumacher—feb. 2020

For nearly eight years, I have been managing professional/business social media pages in some capacity. That means I have been immersed in social media content, analytics, and updates more than the average person. I have to admit that I have reached some social media burnout. I've tried to remedy this before by doing deliberate social media breaks and profile purges. But still, I have come not to use social media the way I did in the past. I have become a “passive" social media user in my personal life. I'm mostly watching social media from a distance. Posting on my personal pages isn't something I do too often these days, primarily out of an irrational fear that by posting, I would be annoying everyone in the social media world.

At the start of 2020, I decided to do a bit of a social media experiment. Instead of trying to remove myself from social media to hit the refresh button, what if I intentionally became more social on social media? This might sound like a ridiculous experiment, and admittedly, it is kind of ridiculous. But hear me out — instead of just watching, what if I was more interactive? What if I commented more and posted more? I was curious to see if immersing myself in a deliberately different way would cause me to feel like social media was more of a fun and enjoyable social experience and less of a numbing pastime. I decided to give myself two weeks, where I tried to connect more intentionally and authentically on social media through posts, comments, and interactions. My “rules" were pretty simple: I had to post something new on social media every day, and I had to interact with someone that goes beyond merely liking their post or photo (comment, direct message, sharing their content, etc.).

Did I learn anything? I had three main takeaways:

  1. Social media has the word social in it for a reason. If social media was a party, I was the wallflower guest waiting for the appropriate time to leave. Getting more involved in the “party" made me enjoy it more. It has become very easy for me to focus on being “social" on professional pages I manage, but I've stopped being “social" on my personal pages. By posting or commenting every day, I started to have new conversations with people. The content I shared wasn't grossly deep, thought-provoking, or personal stuff – but it did create more interactions nonetheless. I found myself more eager to open up my social media apps and actually talk/comment/connect instead of just watch.
  2. The good outweighed the bad. Like I said before, I have a fear of being one of those people that posts all the time and being perceived as annoying. I found that the small conversations and social interactions I had as a result of posting/commenting made me feel like I was using social media for the reason it was created – to connect people. The positive outcome of connectedness outweighed my fear of being annoying.
  3. It wasn't that hard to post often. I managed to find a 30-day social media challenge to participate in, and voila, I had an opportunity to share something every single day! I found a 30-day social media song challenge. Each day I had a prompt like “share a song that reminds you of your childhood," and I would post it to my Instagram stories and include the specific song, too. I've never done a social media challenge before, but I've always enjoyed it when other people have done them. A few of my friends started doing it too! I felt like I got to learn more about my friends through their selections, and other people got to learn more about me through this simple, yet fun challenge. I figured if people thought it was annoying, they could easily skip over my story. No harm, no foul.

This experiment didn't require a lot of time, energy, or effort, and yet it allowed me to enjoy being on social media more than I have in a long time. I think a lot of people would agree that social media has become a space for bad news, fake news, and a way to replace meaningful, real-life connections. Did my little experiment fix this? No, of course not. But, it did allow me to have more fun, connect, and share/learn more about myself and others in a lighthearted way. Maybe try putting a little more social elements in your social media use, and you might find it more enjoyable, too.

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