Facebook and Instagram are introducing a new dashboard to tell you how long you’ve spent inside their apps, along with tools for setting daily limits and temporarily muting your push notifications. The new set of features, called “Your time on Facebook” and “Your activity” on Instagram, are designed to address concerns that addictive feedback loops built into social apps have been detrimental to users’ well-being.
The features will roll out to all users globally within the next couple weeks, save for 1 percent of users who are being held back to allow for comparative testing with the main group, the company said. The move has been expected since last month when screenshots of the features leaked.
To find the new features on Facebook, tap the button with three vertical lines — also known as the hamburger menu — in the bottom-right corner of the app. Scroll down to “Your time on Facebook” and tap. On Instagram, you’ll find “Your activity” inside the settings menu, which you access by tapping the gear icon on your profile.
The dashboard shows you a bar chart of the time you have spent in each app over the past seven days. (Tap on any bar to see the exact amount.) From there, you can choose how much time you wish to spend inside the Facebook and Instagram apps, in five-minute increments.
Once you’ve reached that time, the app will send you a reminder that you’ve hit your daily limit, although you can continue to browse if you like. You can also manage your notification settings from the dashboard, including a new feature that will let you mute them for up to eight hours.
Facebook and other tech companies have faced intense criticism over the past year for how aggressively they court their users’ attention throughout the day. In December, citing internal and academic research, Facebook acknowledged that passive consumption of the News Feed could make people feel bad. Earlier this year, Google and Apple added system-level features to Android and iOS, respectively, to help people understand how much time they spend in apps and to restrict that time, if they like.
“We want these tools to be widely available to the whole community, and to anyone that would benefit from using them,” said Ameet Ranadive, who leads a team at Instagram devoted to users’ well-being. “It’s really important for people that use Instagram and Facebook to feel like the time that they spend with us is time well spent. That’s the whole purpose of this release.”
Ranadive said the company felt compelled to make the dashboard available despite the risk that it could lead to further decreased usage of Facebook and Instagram.
“We want to empower people to make intentional decisions about how much time they spend, and how they want to engage with the app,” he said. “There may be some trade-off with other metrics for the company. That’s a trade-off that we’re willing to live with. In the long run this is something that’s important for the community, and something we want to invest in.”
More features could come to the activity sections of Facebook and Instagram as the company studies how they are used and what else users would like to see there, Ranadive said.
Photo Credit: Punch Newspapers