New Facebook features are now finally going to tell you the amount of time you spend on its social platform. On Wednesday, the social networking giant announced new time management tools for its Facebook and Instagram mobile apps.
Here’s what the new Facebook features do
The new tools will help users better manage their time on Facebook’s platforms. These new features include daily and weekly data on time spent using each app, an option to temporarily mute push notifications, and an alarm system to notify if you are spending more than your self-designated cut-off time.
“This is about giving people the tools and the insights for them to decide for themselves what they want to be doing,” Facebook said in a blog post.
These new Facebook features will roll out to users globally within the next couple of weeks. You can find these new Facebook features by tapping the button with three vertical lines located in the bottom-right corner of the app. On Instagram, these new features are located inside the settings menu. The new features are not available for the Facebook Messenger app or the new IGTV app. The tools are also not accessible via desktop yet.
The amount of time spent on each app over the past seven days is shown in the form of a bar chart. You can tap the bar to get more details. You can also set your own time limit for the Facebook and Instagram apps with a five-minute time interval. The app will send a reminder when you hit the set limit, but it will be up to you to stop browsing. You are also allowed to mute notifications for up to eight hours.
Ensuring “time well spent”
Over the past year or so, Facebook and other big tech firms have been criticized for doing little to ensure the overall wellbeing of their users. In December, Facebook admitted that passive consumption of the News Feed could make users feel bad.
“One of our big focus areas for 2018 is making sure the time we all spend on Facebook is time well spent,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at the time.
According to the social networking giant, the new time management tools are a continuation of the changes made to the News Feed earlier this year. At the time, the company said it would prioritize posts that “spark conversations and meaningful interactions,” and posts from friends and family.
Google and Apple also added similar features to Android and iOS earlier this year. These system-level features from Google and Apple also help users see how much time they are spending on each app and restrict their use if they like.
Facebook favors users’ wellbeing over its own revenue
These new Facebook features are commendable, but they may have an adverse impact on the company’s revenue.
When reporters asked company representatives about the potential adverse effects, Instagram Product Management Director Ameet Ranadive said, “There may be some trade-off with other metrics for the company, and that’s a trade-off we’re willing to live with.”
For Facebook investors, this might not come as positive news, as the company already felt the brunt of its earlier trade-off. Facebook is trying to ensure digital wellbeing by prioritizing posts and videos from friends and family over low-quality viral videos and clickbait news stories. All these measures have played a part in Facebook’s lackluster growth in North America.
Facebook even witnessed a drop of 700,000 users early this year and lost about a million users in Europe in the past quarter. Last week, the social networking giant released its second-quarter earnings report, in which it lowered its revenue outlook and raised its forecast for expenses. Facebook’s stock price was pressured, dropping about 20% and losing about $120 billion in market capitalization.
It is a great step for Facebook to risk its finances for users’ digital wellbeing, and it’s a smart move from a business point of view as well. If Facebook’s efforts bear the expected results and using the social network does actually make people feel good, then they won’t ditch the apps. Instead, they will continue using them for many more years, giving Facebook more ad revenue in return.
However, some are questioning Facebook’s intentions and are skeptical that such features won’t have an immediate effect. Experts believe giving feedback to users could help change their behavior for good, provided that users are aware such tools even exist.