Facebook Adds Tool To Track App Usage

As part of what it is positioning as a public service, Facebook is adding new tools to help users regulate their social-media activity.

Users of Instagram and Facebook’s flagship service now have access to an “activity dashboard” with which they can see how much time they’re spending on the apps.

Below the dashboard, people can set a daily reminder to set limits on their activity, as well as mute the push notifications they receive on their smartphones.

For Facebook, the new tools are part of a broader strategy to increase the quality of users’ social experience, while reducing passive consumption and overuse.

“We want the time people spend on Facebook and Instagram to be intentional, positive and inspiring,” Ameet Ranadive and David Ginsberg, product management director at Instagram and director of research at Facebook, note in a new blog post. 

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In developing the new tools, Ranadive and Ginsberg said they sought counsel from mental health experts and organizations, academics and feedback from Facebook's community.

Last year, Facebook acknowledged that “passive” viewing of social media might not be good for people’s mental health.

The company cited a growing body of independent and internal research, which finds those who spend a lot of time passively consuming social-media content often report feeling worse afterward.

At least in the short-term, analysts have warned that Facebook’s health- and quality-focused changes could negatively impact its bottom line.

“The actions the company will take pose a headwind to growth for the business in the near-term,” Pivotal Research analyst Brian Wieser said earlier this year.

The shift might partly explain Facebook’s latest earnings report, which spooked Wall Street.

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