Instagram addiction is a growing phenomenon across the world. While the popular social media platform offers unprecedented entertainment, connectivity, and information, its overuse constrains users everywhere and affects them adversely. As of 2021, Instagram is estimated to have 1.074 billion monthly active users worldwide. 500 million of these active users access Instagram stories every day. The average amount of time spent on Instagram is 28 minutes per day.

To encourage users to take time out and remind them to consider the time they are spending on it, the Head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, announced a new feature on Instagram. The new ‘Take a Break’ feature, developed along with mental healthcare specialists, will limit the time users spend on the application with the help of opt-in preset reminders.

Testing ‘Take a Break’, read Mosseri’s post. His tweet further added, “We started testing a new feature called ‘Take a Break’ this week. This opt-in control enables you to receive break reminders in-app after a duration of your choosing. I’m excited to dig into the results and hopefully launch this sometime in December.”

All you need to know about ‘Take a Break’

The self-moderating optional feature will enable Instagram users to set reminders at regular intervals of 10, 20, or 30 minutes, prodding them to take a break from the app. Or else, the users can also choose the “Off” option to disable the feature. By activating the feature, users will be recommended to do other things like “write down what you are thinking,” “listen to your favorite song,” or “take a few deep breaths.”

‘Take a Break’ feature is part of a broader effort to give people more control over their experience of Instagram and curb the increasing addiction to the platform. “Ultimately, you know what is right for you when it comes to how you use the app. We want to make sure we offer tools for you to shape Instagram into what works for you,” said Mosseri in a video.

Pictures revealed during the announcement show that the notification will display in users’ feeds but won’t take over the whole screen. In theory, this indicates, users could scroll right past it.  

The psychology of followers, likes, and comments

Many studies on social media and mental health have highlighted that the prolonged use of platforms like Instagram can cause stress, depression, and anxiety. As per The Wall Street Journal, Instagram carried out many online surveys and studies in the last two years to understand how young people felt using their app. Some of the research they conducted showed that young users blamed Instagram for high levels of anxiety and depression.

Not only that, App Developer Peter Mezyk recently claimed that Facebook and Instagram users could become dependent on these apps as they would on painkillers. In a study conducted by Harvard University, it was found that the “reward” part of the brain that lights up in people indulging in addictions lights up for regular social media and Instagram users too. The rush of dopamine offers users a lift similar to that experienced by users addicted to substance use. 

Yet another detrimental element of Instagram overuse is the obsession with likes, comments, followers, shares, and saves. Users are even found to sink into depression if any interaction goes wrong in their virtual lives. Isolation, low self-esteem, and strong adverse reactions to even the slightest impact on their online personas have been noted in various studies. 

The effects are many — and do not stop at health worries arising from spending long hours bent over on the phone screen, watching photos and videos without breaks. With the commencement of ‘Take a Break’ and similar features slated to be launched, the social media platform finally seems to be making headway in placing more control in the user’s hands. 

Instagram’s intent to roll out ‘Take a Break’: A welcome move

Last week, the social media company took a step in the right direction by announcing the news of testing time-outs. Although it remains to be seen how many users will voluntarily set reminders to evaluate the time they spend on Instagram, the feature appears to be a valuable PR exercise that attempts to conciliate critics.

Industry experts have embraced the move and predict that it will positively affect users who spend unhealthy time on various social media platforms.

While commenting on the announcement, Mohit Mirchandani, Co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Digital Nod, said, “We are all addicted to screens. The average amount of time spent online is at an unhealthy level right now and we need to tackle this problem.” Mohit adds, “This is Instagram’s way of putting mental health first. A step like this is a welcome move in today’s times.”

Other popular platforms like Facebook and YouTube are making social media a safe space for its users. Like Instagram, Facebook, too, offers a ‘Take a Break’ option to block specific users from appearing in the feed temporarily. Its ‘Quite Mode’ feature, which was introduced last year, allows users to mute notifications.

‘Take a Break’ feature will pop up in your timeline, asking if you want to opt-in. Expect to access it in December.

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