Instagram has launched a new feature called “Quiet Mode” to help users spend less time on the platform and reduce the potential negative effects of prolonged screen time. The feature allows users to temporarily pause notifications and sends an automatic reply to other users letting them know that the tool is on. The aim of Quiet Mode is to help users focus on other activities, such as studying or sleeping, without the constant interruption of notifications.
Meta, the parent company of Instagram, is launching the feature with teens in mind, as part of the company’s efforts to recover from a string of reports linking its product to harm to teens. Meta President of Global Affairs, Nick Clegg, said in a statement, “Teens have told us they’re looking for more ways to focus while studying, during school and at night.”
When Quiet Mode is activated, friends and other users trying to reach out to someone with the setting on will receive an automatic reply telling them that Quiet Mode is engaged. This is intended to prevent people from feeling ignored when someone suddenly switches off their notifications. An icon will also appear alongside a user’s profile’s activity to let others know that Quiet Mode is engaged. Users will receive a summary of any notifications they may have missed when they turn the mode off.
Meta says it will prompt teen users to turn on Quiet Mode after they’ve spent a “specific amount of time” on the app late at night, but the company has not specified what time of night that will be. This may initially sound like a major win for tech critics and health advocates who have warned about the potential harmful effects of prolonged screen time, but it is not clear how long users will have to spend on the platform before receiving the notification, nor what time of night the prompt will occur.
A growing body of academic research in recent years has demonstrated convincing links between increased screen time and decreased cognitive ability. Other research shows links between increased screen time and enhanced symptoms of depression, particularly among young adults. Meta’s own internal research, made public by whistleblower Frances Haugen in the Facebook Papers, shows the company knew that teens were blaming Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression.
Meta and some social scientists disagree with many of these findings, and argue that it is too simple to blame an increase in teen depression on social media alone. Executives and spokespeople at Meta also point out research that contradicts the screen time narrative, such as a report released this week from the Amsterdam’s School of Communication Research. However, numerous states, including California, have attempted to push forward legislation seeking to specifically target so-called screen addiction.
In addition to tools specifically targeting teens, Instagram also allows users to choose words, or lists of words, hashtags or emojis they wish to avoid seeing in recommended content, in order to reduce users’ interaction with posts they personally find harmful or unpleasant. Instagram released a similar feature last year that lets users hide DMs or comments containing certain selected words.
In short, Instagram’s Quiet Mode is a new feature that allows users to temporarily pause notifications and sends an automatic reply to other users letting them know that the tool is on. The feature is intended to help users focus on other activities, such as studying or sleeping, without the constant interruption of notifications. This feature is aimed at teens, as part of the company’s efforts to recover from a string of reports linking its product to harm to teens. The feature may help reduce the negative effects of prolonged screen time, but more research is needed to understand the impact of this feature on users.