New Tools Help Users Limit Time on Facebook and Instagram

Facebook will soon unveil new tools that tell the user how much time he’s spending on its site and Instagram, part of chief executive Mark Zuckerberg’s 2018 vow to “fix” the platform’s problems. In addition to protecting the community from hate speech and abuse, Zuckerberg mentioned, “making sure that time spent on Facebook is time well spent.” According to Facebook, the company did its own extensive research and got feedback from users in addition to relying on “leading mental health experts and organizations, academics.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that the new tool will be “part of an activity board located within the settings pages of both the Facebook and Instagram apps,” with the goal of making the time people spend on the platforms to be “intentional, positive and inspiring.”

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The activity board will feature a number showing the average amount of time per day spent on the app in the past week, and below that, a bar chart “broken down by day of the week to show you the individual counts for each day.” The tallies, however, “will only reflect the time you spend on the specific device you’re using, and only in the app,” not the time spent on the Facebook/Instagram websites.

Users who divide their Facebook time between their smartphone, laptop and tablet “won’t get a complete picture.”

The user can then set a goal if she wants to cut back on time spent on the apps, via an option to “Manage Your Time.” The user inputs the amount of time per day in the apps, and a pop-up message will appear when she hits her limit. Of course, the user can ignore the alert. Another way to do this, points out WSJ, is simply to disable notifications, and Facebook’s new tools now offer a button to mute them.

The platforms “will soon allow you to choose from pre-set time intervals” — between 15 minutes and eight hours — to stop notifications.

With the imminent arrival of Apple’s iOS 12, “iPhone users will have other ways to manage their app usage, including Facebook and Instagram,” and “an upcoming version of Android, dubbed P, will feature Google’s new Digital Wellbeing tools.” Both operating systems will “provide graphs of time spent in smartphone apps, more granular notification controls, and alerts when you use an app longer than you wanted to.”