Social media

The Battle for Attention: How Social Media Platforms Keep Users Engaged

Do you ever find yourself scrolling through social media for longer than you intended? The constant stream of content and push notifications can make it hard to disengage. Learn about the tactics social media platforms use to keep users engaged and ways to take back control of your time.

Every second, on social media, content is being posted by millions of users. On a global scale, there are videos in abundance, billions of photos.

The goal of these platforms? To make sure that each person spends the maximum amount of time on them. Because the more we scroll:

  • the better the algorithm understands our tastes.
  • the more the suggested content matches our preferences.
  • the more we see sponsored posts... tailored to our profile.

Creators are therefore constantly encouraged to produce content specifically designed for social media. The threat that is held over them? Their community could well disappear at the slightest slowdown in their publications.

Every second dissected

For example, on Instagram, the time spent by a user on each post is recorded and analyzed. This information allows:

  • determining the popularity of the posts in question: the algorithm interprets this time spent looking at a post as an indication of interest - and thus, the quality of the content.
  • drawing up the profile of the person viewing: if they stop long enough in front of a DIY video, it's a signal to the platform. Other content related to this theme will be suggested to them during their next visits.

The Battle for Attention

Accounts therefore produce more and more content to retain the attention of members of their community. These members connect more frequently (to not miss anything), and spend more time on the platform to manage to view all of the proposed content.

Who has never launched a social network app, almost without thinking, during a moment of waiting or boredom? To look up 30 minutes later, with the feeling of having spent much more time than expected...

And for those who leave the platform? The notifications are specially designed to pique their attention. An excellent way to get them back on the platform when they had managed to escape.


That's the average time spent per day on social media in 2022

(Source : Digital 2022 Global Overview Report - We Are Social & Hootsuite)

Taking back control of your time

Some social networks offer their users tools to "take back control" of their usage. For example, Instagram has implemented features for:

  • viewing the time spent on the app each day.
  • selecting the notifications sent or disabling them completely.
  • receiving a reminder to take a break while navigating the app.
  • setting a maximum daily usage duration and receiving a warning when it is reached.

To activate them, simply go to the Settings, and then check the Your activity section.

Less... but better

On the creators side: how to break away from the spiral that encourages posting all the time?

  • setting recurring appointments with its community.
  • organizing and planning ahead for posts, to avoid being caught off guard... and then publishing a lot of content in a hurry to compensate.
  • offering more elaborate posts, which take more time to produce but are also seen as more high-quality by users.

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the pace imposed on social media? What techniques do you use to take back control? Share your tips in the comments!

[Cover photo: Mohdammed Ali]

A digital that is accessible to all and does not exhaust the planet's resources: a future challenge that we can address now. My mission: to find responsible, ethical, and inclusive initiatives that are moving things in the right direction.


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