Instagram working to let users know the time spent on it

Instagram is jumping into the time well spent movement, following the unveiling of Google’s new time management controls last week. Code buried in Instagram’s Android app reveals a “Usage Insights” feature that will show users their “time spent”.

It’s not exactly clear whether that will be your total time spent in Instagram  ever, which could be a pretty scary number to some users, or within some shorter time frame like a day, week, or month. Instagram has also prototyped a new commenting interface with a row of quick-add emojis and an @ button for tagging friends.

Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom has now tweeted a link to this article with a confirmation that Instagram is building this Usage Insights feature. “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.” This article has been updated to reflect the confirmation.

It sounds like Instagram is willing to endure a potential reduction in usage and ad views to be serve the mental health of its community. That’s an admirable pledge, and we’ll see what degree of transparency Instagram rolls out. ]

By being upfront with users about how much of their lives they’re investing in their favorite apps, tech giants could encourage people to adopt healthier habits and avoid the long, passive, anti-social browsing sessions that can harm their well-being. These features could also help parents keep track of what their kids are doing online. Both might lead people to spend less time on certain apps, but they could be happier with companies like Instagram.

Offering “Usage Insights” aligns with Facebook’s recent discussion of research that shows active social networking, like messaging, posting, or commenting can be positive for people’s well-being, but endless zombie scrolling can make people feel worse. While Facebook hasn’t created anything like this feature in its own apps, it’s started to change its algorithm to promote active interactions while downranking viral videos that people consume passively. That led to Facebook’s first ever decline in its North American daily user count in Q4 2017, though it was growing again in the region by Q1 2018.

Instagram’s photo and video-heavy feed especially lends itself to the negative social networking behaviors like envy spiraling, where users constantly compare themselves against the glamorous highlights posted by their friends. Letting users know how long they’re Instagramming, or even letting them set time limits, could push people to go out and live life instead of watching through a screen as others live it.