Would you spend less time on your phone if Facebook counted the minutes you were scrolling through your feed?
According to the first-quarter 2018 Nielsen Total Audience Report, we’re spending almost 50% of our day on our electronic devices – specifically, consuming content. The report revealed that Americans are spending up to eleven hours interacting with digital media every day, and psychologists are voicing their concerns. “[This study] should be a wake up call for our culture,” said Dr. John Huber, a Texas-based Clinical Forensic Psychologist. “Too much time engaging with a screen and too little time engaging with one another can have negative mental health consequences.”
The report’s numbers, while worrisome, did not come as a surprise to industry leaders. “We’re building tools that will help the IG community know more about the time they spend on Instagram,” tweeted Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom in May. “Understanding how time online impacts people is important, and it’s the responsibility of all companies to be honest about this,” he noted.
Facebook and Instagram have announced the news that they would be launching digital well-being screen-time management dashboards in the coming weeks. The new features will count how much time you spend on the platforms each day, and you’ll be able to set a certain amount of time in advance, and then receive a reminder when you’ve hit your numbers for the day.
These time-conscious initiatives come shortly after Apple and Google announced their own boundary-setting features, encouraging users to be more mindful of their screen time, and create healthier online habits. While all of these features are useful, there are ways to set boundaries with devices that start with your own initiatives, so we spoke to an expert about where to start.
“One challenge with new technology is that it blurs the separation between us and our work,” says Chris Ferguson, Ph.D., psychology professor at Stetson University. To combat this reality, Ferguson suggests setting boundaries with your work and personal accounts. “Have accounts, like email, dedicated specifically for work, and only look at those during work hours, not when you’re home with family,” says Ferguson. “[Your inbox] will still be waiting when you’re next on the clock.”
Small realistic boundaries, such as separate accounts, can help on a daily basis, but if you’re really looking to separate yourself, Ferguson says completely unplugging is the way to go. “If you’re on a family vacation or if you’re taking a stress-free trip, be sure to turn the devices off,” he recommends. At the end of the day, setting your own boundaries comes down to what works for you, and if you need the extra push to unplug, Ferguson says we shouldn’t fear the “off” button. “Turning [your phone] on again doesn’t take long, but it’s one more step that may get us to wonder whether it’s really worth it.”