Instagram introduced a daily time limit for users that needed help to control their use of the platform. However, the social platform has changed the preset amounts of time users can choose to spend on the app.
For users who feel it is necessary to impose a limit on how long they use Instagram daily, the app introduced a feature in 2018 that lets the user set how much time they spend browsing photos and videos. Originally, users could pick from 3 hours, 2 hours, 1 hour, 45 minutes, 30 minutes, and 10 minutes options. However, a new update has removed the 10 minutes option. This means the least amount of time you can choose to spend in the app is 30 minutes.
After the app update, users are now confronted with a pop-up message urging them to review their daily limit. Clicking on the button inside the pop-up takes them to the part of the app where is change can be made. Previously, the app sent reminders to change the plan for a week, and you would have to force quit the app to avoid having to make a change. The reminders could be annoying, but it is not the first time Meta has used such a tactic to force people to do something. It used repeated notifications to push a policy update on Whatsapp during a major T&C facepalm that even ended in a probe by the EU.
Meanwhile, the EU has been looking into such questionable practices that tech companies use to make people do their bidding.
However, users can be grandfathered into the 10 minutes plan if they choose not to change their daily limit, as the message says. But once they change, there is no room for going back.
Back in 2018, when Instagram introduced the feature, it said it was to help make the time spent within the app was well-spent. It was a response to criticism thrown at tech companies in general for how their products affect the wellbeing of their clients. Ameet Ranadive, head of the user wellbeing team at Instagram, told The Verge, “We want to empower people to make intentional decisions about how much time they spend, and how they want to engage with the app. Our hope is that these tools give people more control over the time they spend on our platforms and also foster conversations between parents and teens about the online habits that are right for them.”
Apart from the breaks, Instagram also added Take a Break, a feature that lets you receive reminders periodically if you have been on the app continuously. However, it would seem the move to increase the minimum time limit is opposed to the spirit behind the Take a Break feature. One explanation is that Instagram is concerned that people spend less time on the app, directly affecting monetization. It is actually a delicate act balancing the needs to protect users from misuse and protecting the company’s profit at the end of the day.
You will recall that Facebook reported slowing growth and even loss of users in a key market. The social network’s daily average users stayed flat at 1.93 billion. It was enough to wipe out 20 percent of Meta’s market capitalization.
However, to be fair, 30 minutes will not be problematic for most people. It will start to look awkward if Instagram decides to extend the minimum limit again in the future.
In response to a request for comment by TechCrunch, Meta released a statement that doesn’t explain much on why it is limiting users’ choice. “We have two time management features. Our existing ‘daily limit’ shows you a notification when you’ve hit your daily limit, but our newest feature, ‘Take A Break,’ shows you full-screen reminders to leave the app and includes 10-minute intervals. We changed the ‘daily limit’ options to avoid sending people multiple notifications at the same time.”