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Facebook and Instagram Limits

By the FAST team

Background:

Facebook has launched a new feature on Instagram and Facebook that allows users to monitor how much time they spend on both social media platforms, allowing them to set personal limits and restrictions.

Details and Implications:

Users are now able to see how much time they spend on Instagram and Facebook via an in-app dashboard. With Silicon Valley’s digital wellbeing movement gathering pace and a growing acceptance that the amount of time spent on social platforms can have profound social implications, Facebook is ensuring that time spent on their platforms is ‘intentional’ and ‘meaningful’, rather than passive.

The new feature is currently only available in the US but will be rolled out to more markets in subsequent weeks. The new dashboard allows users to see how many minutes per day and per week they are spending on both Instagram and Facebook.

It’s important to note that the time spent on the respective apps is time spent on mobile devices only, not via desktop. The feature also allows users to set time limits for each app so they can monitor the amount of time they spend on them each day. Once a user goes over their allocated time, a notification will appear in the app telling them they have reached their pre-determined ‘limit. It is then up to the user to manually stop engaging with the platform. In addition to setting time limits, users will also be able to mute notifications from the applications for up to 8 hours at a time.

Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom tweeted: “We’re building tools that will help the IG community know more about the time they spend on Instagram – any time should be positive and intentional…understanding how time online impacts people is important, and it’s the responsibility of all companies to be honest about this. We want to be part of the solution. I take that responsibility seriously.”

Facebook states that no plans have been made to use the data from people setting daily limits, other than for design purposes.

Summary:

Facebook’s latest financial results showed a stalling in Daily Active User growth in the US and a slight drop in Europe, ascribed mainly to the implementation of GDPR. The associated share price drop (20%) was more about a rebalancing of the stock value but certainly it was driven by a worry that the stalling could be the early signal of a bigger issue for Facebook.

Whilst not directly linked to the issue of time spent on the app Facebook recognises the reach and power of its platforms and the impact they have on society and as such, this move is a smart one – giving users more control and more information about how they use the platforms.

It mirrors the similar approach taken around data and privacy on the platform, developing tools to give users more power over how and now how long, they interact with the platform and its content providers. Both the Android and iOS operating systems have recently added features to their software, that helps users understand how much time is spent on apps. This new rollout could see users cut their time spent on both Instagram and Facebook and means the battle for attention on platform could intensify.

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