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Help coming soon for social media addicts

Facebook is giving users new tools to better control the time they spend on the platform.Facebook and Instagram are now adding new tools designed to help users manage –and limit – how much time they spend on the platforms. The move comes after numerous reports in the past few years have found a correlation between heavy social-media usage and maladies like depression and anxiety.
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Over the next few weeks, apps for both Instagram and Facebook will be updated with an activity dashboard showing total time spent in an app. The new features also will include the ability to set a daily reminder when you’ve hit a pre-set usage time limit, and a new way to suspend notifications.

“Our hope is that these tools give people more control over the time they spend on our platforms and also foster conversations between parents and teens about the online habits that are right for them,” Facebook director of research David Ginsberg and Ameet Ranadive, Instagram’s product director for well-being, wrote in a blog post.

Social-media usage has been steadily climbing: In 2018, US adults are projected to spend 42 minutes per day on Facebook (up 16 per cent since 2014) and 26 minutes on Instagram (up 44 per cent over the last four years), according to an eMarketer research study.

Researchers say that social media and smartphones are leading to mental-health problems associated with heavy internet use, including forms of addiction. Critics of Facebook and other Silicon Valley companies have argued that the industry has profit incentives to design their products to be as habit-forming as possible.

Facebook itself has cited evidence that social media usage can have ill effects. For example, a 2017 study by UC San Diego and Yale researchers found that Facebook users who clicked on about four times as many links as the average person or who liked twice as many posts reported lower-than-average mental health.

The Facebook and Instagram execs said they developed the new tools in collaboration with “leading mental-health experts and organisations” and using its own research as well as user feedback.

To access the new tools on Facebook or Instagram, once they become available, users can go to the settings page on either app. On Instagram, there will be an option to show “Your Activity,” while on Facebook it will appear as “Your Time on Facebook”.

At the top of the menus will be a dashboard showing a user’s average time for that app on that device, with the ability to see total time for a specific day. Below the dashboard, users will be able to set a daily reminder “to give yourself an alert when you’ve reached the amount of time you want to spend on that app for that day”.

In addition, the Facebook and Instagram apps will add a new “Mute Push Notifications” setting in the “Notification Settings” menu, to be able to shut off notifications “for a period of time when you need to focus,” according to Facebook.

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