Facebook prototypes tool to show how many minutes you spend on it

Facebook prototypes tool to show how many minutes you spend on it

Are you ready for some scary numbers? After months of Mark Zuckerberg talking about how “Protecting our community is more important than maximizing our profits,” Facebook is preparing to turn that commitment into a Time Well Spent product.

Buried in Facebook’s Android app is an unreleased “Your Time on Facebook” feature. It shows the tally of how much time you spent on the Facebook app on your phone on each of the last seven days, and your average time spent per day. It lets you set a daily reminder that alerts you when you’ve reached your self-imposed limit, plus a shortcut to change your Facebook notification settings.

Facebook confirmed the feature development to TechCrunch, with a spokesperson telling us, “We’re always working on new ways to help make sure people’s time on Facebook is time well spent.”

The feature could help Facebook users stay mindful of how long they’re staring at the social network. This self-policing could be important since both iOS and Android are launching their own screen time monitoring dashboards that reveal which apps are dominating your attention and can alert you or lock you out of apps when you hit your time limit. When Apple demoed the feature at WWDC, it used Facebook as an example of an app you might use too much.

Images of Facebook’s digital wellbeing tool come courtesy of our favorite tipster and app investigator Jane Manchun Wong. She previously helped TechCrunch scoop the development of features like Facebook Avatars, Twitter encrypted DMs and Instagram Usage Insights — a Time Well Spent feature that looks very similar to this one on Facebook.

Our report on Instagram Usage Insights led the sub-company’s CEO Kevin Systrom to confirm the upcoming feature, saying “It’s true . . . We’re building tools that will help the IG community know more about the time they spend on Instagram – any time should be positive and intentional . . . Understanding how time online impacts people is important, and it’s the responsibility of all companies to be honest about this. We want to be part of the solution. I take that responsibility seriously.”

Facebook has already made changes to its News Feed algorithm designed to reduce the presence of low-quality but eye-catching viral videos. That led to Facebook’s first-ever usage decline in North America in Q4 2017, with a loss of 700,000 daily active users in the region. Zuckerberg said on an earnings call that this change “reduced time spent on Facebook by roughly 50 million hours every day.”

Zuckerberg has been adamant that all time spent on Facebook isn’t bad. Instead, as we argued in our piece “The difference between good and bad Facebooking,” its asocial, zombie-like passive browsing and video watching that’s harmful to people’s wellbeing, while active sharing, commenting and chatting can make users feel more connected and supported.

But that distinction isn’t visible in this prototype of the “Your Time on Facebook” tool, which appears to treat all time spent the same. If Facebook was able to measure our active versus passive time on its app and impress the health difference, it could start to encourage us to either put down the app or use it to communicate directly with friends when we find ourselves mindlessly scrolling the feed or enviously viewing people’s photos.

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

Apple to launch its own ‘digital health’ features in iOS 12, says report

Apple to launch its own ‘digital health’ features in iOS 12, says report

At Google I/O in May, the company introduced a series of time management tools for Android users that help better manage screen time, track app usage, and limit the phone’s ability to distract, including a “shush” mode which turns on Do Not Disturb by flipping the phone over, and a “wind down,” color reduction mode for bedtime. Now, it seems Apple will follow suit with its own digital wellbeing features in an upcoming release of the iOS mobile operating system, a new report claims.

According to Bloomberg, Apple will introduce a new set of digital wellbeing features for iOS users at its Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in San Jose on Monday.

The tools will be later released as a part of iOS 12 operating system for iPhone and iPad devices, which typically arrives in the fall.

The report was light on details in terms of which specific metrics Apple will track, but says those details will arrive in a new menu inside the Settings app in iOS 12.

The initiative, called “Digital Health,” will monitor how much time users spend on devices, but it’s unclear if it will also include tools that help users silence their phones using new gestures or settings, or otherwise disengage from their devices.

The digital wellbeing movement is part of a fairly recent course correction for Silicon Valley tech companies, which are now being held accountable for the addictive nature of the devices, apps and services they’ve created.

 

From the beginning, tech company engineers and designers were encouraged to make their products ever more engaging by taking advantage of specific design patterns that prompt regular, addictive usage of their products, and those that increase users’ time spent in apps.

But more recently, some tech execs have come to espouse regrets for what they’ve built. Former Facebook president Sean Parker stated Facebook’s design exploited weakness in the human psyche to addict users, and said he worried about what it was doing to kids’ brains. Meanwhile, former Google exec Tristan Harris launched a coalition of technologists and activists called the Center for Humane Technology, which aims to encourage “humane design” – that is, design that reduces distractions and stress, and keeps people from being hooked on their devices.

Now the industry giants are putting some of these principles into practice.

Facebook earlier this year changed how its News Feed operates to reduce users’ time spent on the site in favor of well-being. Instagram last month introduced its first time well spent feature, by informing users “you’re all caught up” when they’ve viewed all the new posts. Google launched parental control tools in its Family Link service that allow parents to limit kids’ screen time, and introduced the above-mentioned digital wellness features for Android in May.

If Apple were to avoid the topic, it would be the odd one out at this point.

The new digital wellbeing tools will likely be detailed during Monday’s WWDC keynote address, and may include some additional protections for children through an update to iOS’s parental controls. We do know that more robust parental controls are at least coming, as Apple promised this explicitly following criticism from major shareholders about children’s iPhone addiction.

image credit: child on device, Shestock / Getty Images

Source: Mobile – Techcruch