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  • Writer's pictureMeg Mateer

Hack your social habits 5 mins per day

Updated: Mar 4, 2019

Playfully experiment with how you connect with yourself and others to boost spontaneity and adventure.

Sometimes it’s hard to believe, but I used to work in finance. I really enjoyed a lot about what I was doing, the analytical aspect to things, the fact that I could go deep into some sort of excel web hole while listening to my favorite tunes. But I missed an aspect of creativity in my work which, although very dynamic and interesting, lacked a certain level of spontaneity. I didn’t have much time to be spontaneous outside of work, either. Like many success-hungry young (American) adults working in consulting, I was spending not only my days but many of my evenings and weekends in the office. Our evening routine quickly became ordering sushi and crunching numbers.

So, about this spontaneity I was craving - I thought to myself, what would happen if I found something fun and interesting to do that took only 5 mins of my day and started to stretch myself outside of my finance routine that way? I started an Instagram handle called “dailyimprov” and posted the challenges I was giving myself, what I called “social hacks”, to anyone else who wanted to join in. I made it a point every evening to post a hack. My first few social hacks were office related: “pay for coffee for the person behind you in line” or “speak to someone in the elevator”. However, soon they became a bit more broad. A few of my favorites were: “get a bunch of people to do the wave” (I shamelessly asked a few fellow bar goers if they would indulge in my hack - and caught it on camera!) and “challenge a friend to a push up contest” (I actually got a personal trainer I met at a hotel bar that evening to demonstrate the perfect push up for the hack photo and subsequently challenged my colleague). Some of the most powerful social hacks for me were simple: for example, “draw” sparked a new side hobby of sketching.  

Believe it or not, these small experiments led to bigger life shifts. For example, I decided that my irrational fear of going to bars by myself was something that I could challenge through my social hacks. My most recent moments of being by myself at a bar were in 10 minute periods while waiting for a friend to arrive, the whole time frantically switching between appearing to look at the menu and checking my phone for update messages from him or her. So I decided to go at it alone - to step into a bar and enjoy (enjoy?) a beer by myself. Turns out, a beer by my lonesome was a beer in solitude. I had the freedom to watch or do or think about whatever I wanted, and I also ended up meeting more people than I ever had when I was with friends at a bar. Once I had confidence to be myself for a drink, I began going on small weekend trips by myself to explore new cities. I would try not to plan anything - just allow myself to be by myself and to discover new things and new people sans agenda (also a challenge for my typical structured and organized self). I found these weekends to be so fulfilling, so utterly expansive, that I wanted them to be a regular part of my life. One weekend trip I spent by myself in Amsterdam after a week of working in Germany. And on the last night of that weekend, I met my partner, at a random bar, by myself.

Fast forward 2 years and these small steps to stretch my comfort zone, to find new things, to search for spontaneity, has lead me not only to finding a new love and a new country to call home, but to starting my own company, Empatiko. I would not have been able to do it without the first baby steps.

Empatiko, this dream organization that grew out of my own personal social hacks, is dedicated to empowering people to make the shifts with themselves, in their relationships, in society, that they want to see happen. We believe, just as I experienced, that small experiments that move us toward a new way of living can be the best way to make a real big change.

Think about something you want really bad -  A completely new career? Too risky. Something you want in your friendships - to bring back the joy and play that we had in our childhood friendships? Can’t even imagine it.  Something you want to see in the world - that ever fleeing concept of peace? Too much to achieve on my own.

What if you could break those big things, those big dreams into a bite sized experiment and start tomorrow? This is where those small social hacks, those that I tried myself and began to share with the world through Empatiko, come into play. Social hacks are small experiments that allow you to try on new ways of being, nudge your connections and the broader world to join in. Let’s take those dreams from above and “hack” them. Remember, it can be helpful to make these hacks fun or funny and playful (so that we are not taking ourselves too seriously in making change).  


  • A completely new career - how about taking your curiosity to the streets and asking 5 people what they do, and what they love and hate about their current job

  • Reignite the wonder of being children in your friendships - invite your friends to do cartwheels in the park. If it’s rainy, you can try finger painting...

  • World peace - stand somewhere in public and ask people questions about the things that are on their mind related to war and peace - come up with ideas together on how you can spread the feeling

Why do we define “social hacks” as experiments? Approaching life and social change like a scientist can be helpful. After all, we have assumptions that are underlying all of our actions. So it’s important that in the process of creating and executing hacks, that you outline your hypothesis (I think that by skipping down the street I will feel more playful) and then test it through your actions. Maybe you didn’t feel more playful, but you did feel more daring.

You can design hacks for anything. Simply follow this three step process:

  1. Create the vision - decide an area of your life, your relationships, your team, your community that you would like to change

  2. Make it tangible - develop ideas around ways that you could introduce change that you want starting tomorrow. Make this action as small, easy, and fun as you can​. If possible, enroll a bunch of other people to join you!

  3. Make it happen - As soon as possible, execute your hack ;) . Make sure to observe and record your insights. After all, it’s an experiment!

Just did a social hack? Tell us about it! You can inspire others to begin to hack their lives, relationships, and communities. Send us a message, a picture, or a video of your hack and we’ll share it on our site! To :)

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