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June 20, 2018
By Shannon O'Connor
This week Telecoms.com has 16 year-old Shannon O’Connor joining the team for work experience, and today is an assessment of Instagram’s new feature to moderate time spent on the app. Here are her thoughts.
Earlier this week, Instagram’s CEO Kevin Systrom has confirmed an all-new ‘time spent’ usage insights tool in a questionable bid to improve users mental wellbeing.
Instagram is yet to comment on the ‘Usage Insights Tool’ so plans have not yet been confirmed for what the new feature will provide for its users. However, it is assumed that users will receive an outlook into the ‘daily tally’ of their minutes spent on the app whilst also receiving an alert to remind them of their daily limit.
So it seems Instagram has taken upon a whole new responsibility as a social networking app to provide services to tackle the amount of time we spend on our phones. Possibly it feels liable to take matters into its own hands when thinking about the negative impacts extended minutes online can have on teenagers and young adults like myself.
But how far will Instagram go in combatting the amount of time young adults spend on the internet?
It has been found in recent studies from the Pew Research Centre that 17% of US teens feel platforms such as Instagram harm relationships resulting in less sincere interactions. Similarly, 15% of those taking part suggested that social media distorts reality (giving many an unrealistic view of other people’s lives). A further 14% believed that teens spend too much time on social media.
This parallels with the increase in mental health problems. In the 21st century more people continue to struggle to moderate usage. In the past 25 years young people in Britain who have dealt or are dealing with anxiety/depression have risen by a climatic 70%.
The Royal Society for Public Health surveyed young people about the effects of social media through the #StautusOfMind campaign. Over 1,400 14-24 year olds were interviewed. The final results shockingly suggested that social media was ‘more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol’.
We sat down with a member of the Informa office, Tom McCormick, to hear his views on the new feature and how he thinks it may impact society among various age groups. We came to the following conclusions:
The content users find themselves engaging with could possibly be more damaging to mental health than the amount of time being spent on Instagram
If the feature was to be made into an add-on feature it would most likely become redundant as those such as himself would not invest in downloading it
From the perspective of a parent, those aged 20 to 40 would find no benefits in controlling the time period in which their child spent engaging on the app
‘Reflective Content Moderation’ could derive better benefits for users in the long term
The alternative ‘Reflective Content Moderation’ tool was something that we believe to be more valuable. In theory, individuals who found themselves pro-actively seeking negative content may find themselves in a much more depressive state than those who found themselves viewing positive images from friends and family. If a parent had control over the content their child was seeing, the benefits that could derive from it could be far more substantial than tracking the amount of minutes spent online.
But this led to me consider if a teen would like their parent’s to accurately track their behaviour or track the amount of time that they spent on the app. Social media sites were designed to be a creative space where individuals could express themselves freely in whatever way they felt was appropriate.
Surely any implications made by the social site would purely be a window dressing; teens will always utilise their social platforms in the way they want to. For some, Instagram has failed to provide a secure and positive environment for teens to express themselves in, possibly being one origin of teen mental illness battles. It continues to give off an impression that it cares about its users; in actuality its investment in this feature is perhaps only a PR stunt to give the impression of responsibility
Furthermore, it could be said that the tool may provide a possible stop to financial development. Instagram has seen a steady increase in numbers since December 2016 when it hit 600 million. With an added 100 million users every four months, the app is now set to hit one billion this month. But now with the added burden of a potential decrease in usage minutes, advertisers could decrease investments in the app.
We will have to see whether Instagram rolls out this new feature in the next coming months or whether it makes changes; surely a track of content would be more useful than time spent on the app.
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