Instagram to control teens’ browsing — Analysis
The platform will stop teen users from spending “too long” scrolling through posts with a particular theme
The feature will stop teens scrolling through photos with the same theme on Instagram, announced the social media giant. It was also being implemented across all of the US, Canada, Ireland and Australia.
Teen users who are spending what the platform judges to be “Too much” time on Instagram’s Explore page looking at posts with a certain theme will be hit with a notification suggesting they look at other types of posts instead.
The feature “This is intended to inspire teens to try something new.,” according to a statement posted by parent company Meta. Users will be prompted to “Choose what you want to do next” and presented with an array of different images, each leading to a topic unrelated to whatever they were previously looking at.
Instagram claims that 58.2% of respondents to an external survey “They strongly agreed, or agreed with the idea that nudges helped them to be more aware of how much time they spend on social media platforms..” The social network’s own observations of user behavior over a one-week period bore this out, with one in five users obediently changing topics when they were “nudged.”
“Instagram is a place where people can feel happy about their time on it.,” platform head Adam Mosseri told CBS Mornings, describing the ‘nudge’ feature as “A way to encourage it softly”
“No matter what topic you’re going deep into, if you’re going particularly deep, we let you know, and we suggest some other topics.”
The nudge function is activated after reading a set number of posts in succession. It doesn’t matter which topic they relate to. Liza Crenshaw, spokesperson, assured The Verge by email that the system works. However, the suggested topics exclude “Content that could be associated with comparison of appearances.”
Frances Haugen, a whistleblower at Meta revealed that company knew of the adverse effects appearance-related comparisons on users’ lives last year, particularly females. In one study after another, Meta confirmed that compulsively scrolling through images of people with thin or otherwise “Ideal” bodies was bad for users’ mental health. A slide from one internal Facebook presentation acknowledged that “One in three teenage girls has body image problems that are worse” who had already reported having body image issues, while another particularly damning study conducted by the company revealed that over 40% of users who reported feeling “unattractive” said they had first felt that way when using Instagram.
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In addition to babysitting teen users itself, Instagram has announced it is expanding the controls available to teen users’ actual parents, offering tools that will provide a window onto what kind of posts or accounts their child reports, as well as a general accounting for how much time their child spends on the platform.
Instagram has also expanded its “Enjoy a Relaxing Break” feature, which supposedly ‘nudges’ teen users to get off the platform. The new version kicks in when the user has been scrolling through the platform’s “Reels” feature and is expected to be rolled out globally “Later in the summer.” It will showcase Reels created by “young creators” who “share their own tips for taking a break and why it’s a good idea to get off social media for a bit.”
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