Facebook And Instagram Add Hidden Modes to Help You Quit Them

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Feeling like you’re on FB and the ‘gram a little too much? Would you like to check your usage – and set limits to remind yourself to do something else now and then?

In a new announcement from Facebook HQ, new time management initiatives have been announced to help you do just that.

There’s basically three parts to the new management tools on offer.

  1. An ‘Activity Dashboard’ tracking your average usage by overall time and by days of the week.
  2. A ‘Daily Reminder’ option so you can alert yourself when you’ve used the app for more than a certain amount of time.
  3. A ‘Notification Manager’ to mute push notifications or vibrations when you want the app to stay out of your hair.

Naturally, Facebook doesn’t want to make it too easy to use these features. It’s more interested in telling you it’s doing its bit to help us use it in more balanced ways while hoping we don’t really bother.

So these new settings are hard to find (and might not have rolled out to your part of the network just yet, so keep checking if it’s not there yet).

But if you dig into your settings you’ll find where they’re hiding.

In the Instagram app, go to ‘Settings’, then ‘Your Activity’. In the Facebook app, go to ‘Settings’, then ‘Your Time On Facebook’. I checked on my own fully up to date apps for these settings but they weren’t yet available – just keep your app up to date and it will appear very soon if it hasn’t already.

Of course, there’s annoying caveats.

This only does per-device tracking, it’s not helping you track across desktop, mobile and tablet, or however you mix your usage. Not like the way Facebook can track your data so seamlessly across every device ever known to humanity.

You can also turn off notifications completely for the app outside of these controls if you want to get serious about reducing alerts and distractions. Plenty of studies show our phones are powerful distraction machines, while other research suggests receiving notifications on a schedule would be a better move than turning them off completely.

There’s also the issue with the tools we haven’t been given.

“Our hope is that these tools give people more control over the time they spend on our platforms”

One simple option they could give us is the ability to permanently set our timelines back to a ‘Most Recent’ view instead of the algorithmic ‘Top Stories’. The former is more surprising and random, the latter feeds us the same kinds of things and reinforces our news bubbles.

But if you want to browse chronologically, you have to force that choice every single time.

OK, yes, it’s easy to stick the boot into Facebook. In the end, it’s nice this exists at all and if you are someone who wants to have a better sense of how they’re using their time on social media, it’s a nice place to build your awareness of how much time you’ve been spending there.

It can’t hurt to give it a look!

/Beyond is ScienceAlert’s new section covering the wider world of gadgets, games, and digital culture.

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