Facebook Wednesday announced a new set of tools to enable people to control the time spent on Facebook and Instagram by letting them know how much time they spend surfing on these platforms. The new tools allow users to set a reminder, whereby an alert is fired when they reach the time limit set for themselves to spend on the apps.
Facebook is the third technology giant after Google and Apple to bring out features to discourage overuse of internet apps and smartphones. A May study by Aligarh Muslim University and Indian Council of Social Science Research said that a college student in India, on average, checks her mobile over 150 times a day and that a majority of students used their smartphones for around 4-7 hours every day.
In a statement, Facebook said that the tools include a way to limit notifications and a dashboard that allows users to keep track of how much time they have spent on the platforms.
“We want the time people spend on Instagram and Facebook to be intentional, positive and inspiring… Our hope is that these tools give people more control over the time they spend on our platforms and also foster conversations between parents and teens about the online habits that are right for them,” the Menlo Park-based social networking major said. Facebook also said it was introducing a daily reminder, whereby users are alerted when they reach the time limit they set for themselves to spend on the app. In 2017, India surpassed the US in having the most number of Facebook users.
Prior to Facebook, Android-maker Google, which also sells smartphones under the Pixel brand, and iPhone-maker Apple announced their initiatives earlier this year. Under the “Digital Wellbeing” programme announced in June, Google announced measures similar to Facebook with an app dashboard to tell users how frequently various apps are used. It also announced a measure to allow users to take a break from apps such as YouTube by pausing what they are watching and encouraging them to step away. Both Apple and Google have also introduced measures to let parents control the usage of their children. Apple, in fact, even lets parents control their children’s usage from their own devices.
The research by AMU and ICSSR, titled Smartphone Dependency, Hedonism and Purchase Behaviour: Implications for Digital India Initiatives, noted that anxiety and fear of missing out on information make university students check their devices as many as 150 times a day. It also found out that nearly 63 per cent of the students used their smartphones for around 4-7 hours every day. According to estimates, there are more than 500 million smartphone users in India.
In a blogpost in December, Facebook pointed out the ill-effects of using social media in a certain way. “In general, when people spend a lot of time passively consuming information — reading but not interacting with people — they report feeling worse afterward,” the post authored by David Ginsberg, Director of Research, and Moira Burke, Research Scientist at Facebook, said. “Though the causes aren’t clear, researchers hypothesise that reading about others online might lead to negative social comparison – and perhaps even more so than offline, since people’s posts are often more curated and flattering,” the post added.