The virtual world is now colliding with the virtual world. Apparently, spending way too much time on social media sites is finally “a thing” that needs fixing. Facebook (and their other company, Instagram) can now help you with that obsessive habit.

A new set of features are slowly starting to roll into your Facebook and Instagram apps. You may already have seen it. These features are is designed to help you better manage how you spend your time on your phone – and separately on your tablet – so you can “control” your usage. Since they are separate, you need to do some addition to make sure your combined total is accounted for. Oh… and you can’t use them on a laptop or desktop, so you still can cheat on those devices.

The upgraded apps will include daily and weekly data reporting to let you know how much on time you spent within each app. You can also temporarily mute your push notifications. And, to really keep you from your habit, it will include a daily reminder system that you set up to warn you when you are near or have gone over your chosen max viewing time for each day.

This changes more than meets the eye

Of course, if this is adopted by very many people, your chances of being seen on either platform is reduced. Fewer eyes mean fewer eyes overall.

But here’s something no one is talking about: we already have a very short attention span, so now when someone knows they are reaching their “limit” on their Facebook or Instagram apps, will they be even less focused? The ticking clock in the background might just be quite a bit louder, right?

However, even if you use these features, it is easy to ignore the warning of having reached your “limit” for the day. It’s not like your phone will shut down or make it impossible to stay glued to your Instagram feed. But the very fact that there is a move afoot to help people use these warning signals is very telling. If people “feel” they need to use the app at all, it’s saying that there is a growing resistance to burying your head in a screen.

Apple is also joining the “less is more” philosophy

With upcoming iOS 12 (it’s in beta testing now), there will be a slew of tools for users to gain insights into all their device usage. That includes the Watch and the Mac, too. Reports on all kinds of behavior will be available. It will even show you how many notifications you are receiving so you can see why you are so drawn to your screen all day long.

Just like the new app for Facebook and Instagram, you can ignore the information or not even use it in the first place. But in the greater scheme of things, this has the possibility of really changing behaviors across many users from all corners of the planet.

It’s very telling that these “tools” for monitoring our own screen time are hitting our apps. The creation of these special reporting features is not a frivolous expenditure by these giant companies. They are in reaction to trends.

Is a focus on being addicted to the internet about to be a thing?

Some time back, I turned off all notifications on my Ipad. I did that so that I could use that device to read my “daily news” without interruption. On my desktop, I have a folder for news in my email program and I have applied a rule for my newspaper subscriptions to automatically go into that folder. It was another attempt to isolate my eyes and brain cells from the entire inbox of offers and blog alerts and so forth. It’s helping me stay focused.

If we are collectively encouraged to begin thinking about less usage and if this is now going to become a trend, what might the new focus on less screen time mean to us in the years ahead?

We actually have a case study

A changed attitude and a group shift in consciousness about smoking cigarettes certainly changed some habits. Starting in the mid-60’s, 45% of the US population was smoking. By 2016 that dropped to around 15% in 2016. I might guess it to be less today, but the bottom line is it’s a huge drop. But it took a village!

Can you imagine flying in a plane filled with cigarette smoke? How about your favorite restaurant? How many smokers actually even smoke in their own homes anymore if they have kids in the house? Here in Hawaii, and I am sure in many other states, we have a new law making it illegal to smoke in your car if you have underage children.

It took a long time to bring this level of change. It started out with a warning label that became law in 1969. Over the following decades, more and more laws banning where one could light up began to have a greater and greater impact.

But the biggest deterrent had to be when there was a shift from smoking being considered sophisticated to being stupid. (If you are still a smoker, you have my sympathy. I was a heavy smoker until I quit in 1988.) And in the past 30 years, smoking has become increasingly difficult to do. It’s almost impossible for someone in the US to find a place to smoke. But addiction is… well… it’s an addiction!

And so time will tell – and it might move quicker this time.

If this group think spreads, it will happen much quicker, of course. Everything online can spread much quicker. Will the day come when we pity the person who is glued to their phone in a restaurant? Will peer pressure result in shunning anyone who drives while texting? Will we all begin to have the conversations around the “problem” of device addictions and will there someday be meetings for Screen Addicts Anonymous?

We have all had the conversation about kids and their devices, but it usually ends with, “it’s just a different generation” or something similar that takes everyone off the hook. But we all know someone who has a child that is on their devices and playing games for hours and hours. We have all seen the table full of people all fixated on their phones at a restaurant. We all know that there is a problem with that behavior and yet we are not (yet) collectively shunning the activity.

Parents may moan and groan, but the beat goes on (and on). And part of that is because they are also spending more time then they will admit to being on their devices doing less than productive things every day.

And so I wonder and am curious about your thoughts on this subject:

Can you imagine a world in which there is less internet connectivity? And if that is a trend in the years ahead, what does that do to our marketing strategies?

Is there something we should be doing now (or soon) to begin to cultivate richer more enticing ways to communicate. Should you even spend money on ads on Facebook or other social media in the coming years? It’s very clear from Mr. Zuckerberg that he wants us to just have fun again and not be bombarded with ads or politics anymore.

The tired and true?

As you all know, I am a very big fan of email marketing. I still find it to be the most direct approach and I still believe it can weather any storm. It’s hard to spend hours (or be addicted) to your inbox. We use email for more focused communication to start with and sign up so we can stay in touch with a specific goal in mind. We get a virtual feeling of a one-to-one outreach. On top of that, it’s already controlled by our ability to delete instantly or even unsubscribe if we start getting emails that don’t meet our needs.

The few notifications I get from Facebook are usually not of real interest. I don’t really care that a friend of a friend posted a video about their child’s first steps. But because there is no subject line, I find it impossible not to go and check out the post. I am almost always wishing I knew what I was about to experience before going onto Facebook. And I don’t know how to deal with dozens of comments in my inbox because I am in a post that got tagged?

I got like a dozen of these today and I don’t know a single person who commented! “(a person) commented on a photo that you’re tagged in.” I want less of that, please. It’s why I quit hitting the Friend button years ago.

Yes, I will admit that I am a bit of a curmudgeon. However, I know I am not alone in wanting more authentic communications and fewer distractions that are of little to no value.

So I repeat: What do you think about this new movement towards to less time spent on devices? And what do you think you can do to keep your marketing message in play? Please share your thoughts. Together we can get a jump on this!


  1. syl cabralr

    I agree. I think FB is waste of time. I think email marketing is great. I am afraid of being a news junkie. so work to limit my time online. aloha thanks for info.

    • McKenna

      You’re welcome syl

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