by Sara Ashley O’Brien
Get ready to find out how much time you spend on Facebook and Instagram.
A new set of features are starting to roll out to the Facebook and Instagram mobile apps on Wednesday to help you better manage how you spend time on the platforms.
The features include daily and weekly data on time spent within each app, a feature for temporarily muting push notifications, and a daily reminder system to notify you when you’ve hit a self-designated cut-off time for the day.
“This is about giving people the tools and the insights for them to decide for themselves what they want to be doing,” said David Ginsberg, director of research at Facebook.
According to Ginsberg, the features build on the changes Facebook made to the News Feed in January. Facebook said it would prioritize posts that “spark conversations and meaningful interactions,” as well posts from family and friends. In a Facebook post at the time, CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote, “One of our big focus areas for 2018 is making sure the time we all spend on Facebook is time well spent.”
The tools will be accessible on the Settings page within each app. On Instagram, tap “Your Activity,” and on Facebook, select “Your Time on Facebook.”
But you’ll still have to do some of the leg work to make sure you’re happy with how you’re spending your time. The features are not available on the Facebook Messenger app or the new IGTV app, a hub for long-form, vertical video. The tools aren’t accessible via desktop yet, either.
“Over time we hope to bridge the both of them [desktop and mobile],” said Gretchen Sloan, head of communications at Facebook, during a press briefing.
The calculations of how much time you’re spending on each app is specific to each device. So if you’re using Instagram on your tablet and your phone, you’ll have to add the two totals together. You also won’t be able to view your historical data after the week has passed, so it may be difficult to see changes in your behavior.
You can receive a push notification once you’ve reached your selected cut-off time for, as an example, 25 minutes a day. However, you’ll need to exercise some self control once you meet your daily quota. (The apps don’t shut down after time is up.)
“As we learn more about how people’s relationship with media technologies impact their well being, we’re looking for ways to help give people more control,” Sloan said.
“We want people’s time [online] to be intentional and meaningful — that’s actually good for the business,” she added. “I don’t know how people will react when they see the time that they spent. It’ll be interesting to learn that.”
Facebook is the latest company to lean into the “Time Well Spent” movement, which aims to draw distinction between “time spent” and “time well spent,” a new benchmark that looks at the quality of time online.
Earlier this year, former employees at companies such as Google and Facebook started an organization called Center for Humane Technology focusing on the issue of rethinking and redesigning tools to be less intrusive.
Meanwhile, Apple teased an iOS update in June that allows users to track how much time they’re spending on their phones and apps each day.