Time limit tool added to Facebook and Instagram

  • img Harvey Cawdron
  • POSTED ON 01 Aug 2018


Facebook and Instagram are launching a new tool to limit the amount of time people spend using their apps.

This comes after concerns that excessive social media use can damage people's mental health. 

The new tool will allow users to see how much time they have spent on the apps, set reminders for when they have reached their allotted times, and to mute notifications for a certain amount of time. 

However, some have deemed these changes insufficient. 

Newsbeat were told by Grant Blank, from the Oxford Internet Institute, that 'I wouldn't say it's a radical change or that it's going to really change a lot about the way that most people use Facebook or Instagram,' adding that 'It strikes me as a way to balance their corporate interest of keeping people spending as much time as possible on Facebook, while still being responsive to people who find the continual notifications to be disturbing or distracting.' 

Contrary to Blank's statements regarding the company's intent, CNet reported that Zuckerberg is promoting a 'time well spent' Mantra, and earlier in the year changed the newsfeed to make posts from friends and family the priority. As the company earns money from marketers that use people's personal data to target them with specific advertisements, CNet claimed its finances took a hit, as it missed Wall Street's sales and user growth estimates for the first time in years, and took a huge one day stock hit.

In December 2017, Facebook sent out a blog post noting the impact spending too much time on the platform has on its users. 

In an experiment at the University of Michigan, students were randomly assigned roles, and it was found that those who scrolled through the site for 10 minutes were in a worse mood at the end of the day than those who were more active by posting on it and talking to friends. 

Another experiment, this time by UC San Diego and Yale, found that people who clicked on 4 times as many links or liked twice as many posts 'reported worse mental health than average'. 

Em Sheldon, a lifestyle vlogger and Instagrammer, told Newsbeat that checking up on her friends is an 'all-day thing'. She said 'While I think it's part of the job, I do think it's a problem because we become dependent on our phones and on checking social media. If I've got some free time, I'll fill that void by scrolling. Social media is 24/7 for me, but I think it's something that has crept up over time - the need for me to just constantly be on it.' 

Regarding having awareness of how long she spends on social media, Em said she 'doesn't know if it would help' because 'I'm aware that I use social media too much'. However, she does think that the reminder notifications could prove useful, saying 'Maybe it would give me the kick I need to put my phone down. If something popped up saying: 'You've been using this app for six hours', I'd be like, 'Wow, that is a lot. What a waste of my time'.'

The co-founder of digital marketing company The Goat Agency, Harry Hugo, claimed that these developments have been a 'long time coming'. He said 'With the emergence of mental health issues - especially among young people, who are spending the most time on these platforms - it's really important that we put things in place that can help limit that. If they understand that they're spending hours a day on these platforms, maybe it will make them think twice.'

Harry claims that when he was a teenager, he used to spend 15 to 16 hours a day on Twitter, 'which sounds unbelievably unhealthy now I look back at it', however he also thinks that self-control is essential. He said 'We're the ones that open the phone, we're the ones that tap on Instagram. We can't just put it in the hands of Apple or Facebook to fix these problems. Obviously these things are great preventative techniques, but they're not going to change it for good. They are doing as much as they can before we as a society need to recognise what we're doing with our lives.'