Facebook and Instagram are to join Apple’s lead in releasing a tool that limits how much time people spend on their apps. Meanwhile, the Royal Society for Public Health is behind a new UK campaign to stop people scrolling through their feeds for a month.
Too much social media is bad for our mental health – that much has been acknowledged by Facebook. Research released by the tech giant last year acknowledged the negative effects of spending too much time on the platform.
Now, under pressure from regulators and consumers, Facebook and Instagram (which it owns) have created a tool that allows users to check how much time they have spent on the platform and then set reminders for when they reach their allotted time in a day.
Users of the two platforms will also be able to mute notifications for time periods that they set themselves.
The move by Facebook follows a similar announcement last month by Apple, confirming that its new iOS 12 mobile operating system, available in September, contains a new ScreenTime feature (pictured) allowing users to monitor iPhone use, reduce interruptions and set limits.
September sees the UK Royal Society for Public Health unveil Scroll Free September, encouraging social media users to “take back control” of their social media use, by cutting down on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat for a month – or logging off altogether.
The RPHS says cutting out on the social platforms could improve wellbeing, sleep and relationships. Its polling found that a third of social media users and half of young users aged 18-34 expect quitting for a month to have a positive effect on their sleep, real-world relationships and overall mental health and wellbeing.
Almost half of users and two thirds of young users said the break would improve their productivity.
Elsewhere, iOS app Moment is among independent monitors of screen time use, offering daily breakdowns of individual app use, and premium coaching tools allowing users to learn how to spend less time on apps, and set limits.
Last year former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya accused the company of creating “short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops” that are “destroying how society works”. And a BBC Panorama investigation last month heard how social media companies were deliberately making their apps addictive to boost profits.
This summer the NHS opened its first internet addiction centre for young people and adults, as the World Health Organisation classified gaming disorder as a mental health condition.