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Facebook and Instagram launch 'wellness dashboard' to help users combat app addiction
Facebook and Instagram are introducing new tools that let mobile users track and manage how they spend time on their apps, like a timer that reminds you when you’ve hit a self-imposed app use time limit, and an option to limit notifications.
Facebook and Instagram are introducing new tools that let mobile users track and manage how they spend time on social media.
The tools, which will be available only on Facebook and Instagram smartphone apps, include:
- an activity dashboard that shows the amount of time you spend on the app
- a timer that reminds you when you’ve hit a self-imposed time limit for app use
- an option to limit notifications
“We developed these tools based on collaboration and inspiration from leading mental health experts and organizations, academics, our own extensive research and feedback from our community,” reads a press release from Facebook.
Desktop users won’t have access to the features, and neither will 1 percent of Facebook users who were selected to serve as a comparative group, the company said.
Ameet Ranadive, Instagram’s Product Director of Well-Being, framed the new features as a long-term investment.
“It’s really important for people who use Instagram and Facebook that the time they spend with us is time well spent,” he told reporters on a conference call. “There may be some trade-off with other metrics for the company and that’s a trade-off we’re willing to live with, because in the longer term we think this is important to the community and we’re willing to invest in it.”
To access the new features, go to Settings→Your Time on the Facebook app, or Settings→Your Activity on Instagram.
Facebook’s ‘digital wellness’ plan
The tools mark the latest development in Facebook’s effort to deal with a growing body of research showing how social media can be harmful to mental health. It’s a problem the company first tackled publicly in 2017 with a blog post titled ‘Hard Questions: Is Spending Time on Social Media Bad for Us?’
The answer seems to be, mostly, yes.
Studies show that using social media to interact with friends and family is often a positive experience, but mindlessly scrolling through—or ‘passive consuming’—a newsfeed can leave us feeling sad or anxious, possibly because we end up comparing ourselves to others we deem more successful.
Other studies have demonstrated links between phone addiction and increased rates of anxiety and depression. According to a 2017 study from Deloitte, for instance, 47 percent of smartphone users have at one point attempted to cut back on phone use. The same amount of Americans say they couldn’t live without their smartphones.
Facebook isn’t the only company building wellness features into its platform. In May, Google announced a new suite of ‘digital well-being’ features, including charts that show you a breakdown of how much you use each app, the number of notifications you’ve received and how much time you spend on your phone.
Apple also recently announced its new Screen Time function, which will be native to all devices running iOS 12.
“In iOS 12, we’re offering our users detailed information and tools to help them better understand and control the time they spend with apps and websites, how often they pick up their iPhone or iPad during the day and how they receive notifications,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering. “With Screen Time, these new tools are empowering users who want help managing their device time, and balancing the many things that are important to them.”
An existential problem
It’s been a tumultuous year for Facebook, to say the least.
In March, news broke of a scandal involving Facebook’s past interactions with Cambridge Analytica, a data firm that had ‘inappropriately’ collected the personal data of at least 87 million Facebook users. The story sparked public outcry and heated—and sometimes absurd—congressional hearings. It also sent shares of Facebook plunging.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before the US Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee (Photo: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
However, Facebook’s biggest market hit came in late July after an earnings report revealed stagnant user growth and revenue gains that fell short of analysts’ predictions. The company lost $120 billion in market value in less than 24 hours, its biggest stock drop ever.
By implementing these new wellness features, Facebook could be taking its first steps in the attempt to get out in front of a brewing existential threat: the fact that what makes Facebook money and what’s healthy for users are, in many ways, fundamentally opposed.
It’s a problem the company has known about for a while. As early Facebook investor Sean Parker said, Facebook was designed to be addictive from the start.
“The inventors, creators—it's me, it's Mark [Zuckerberg], it's Kevin Systrom on Instagram, it's all of these people—understood this consciously,” Parker said at an Axios event. “And we did it anyway.”
Whether Facebook’s tools will be effective—or whether users will have any interest in adopting ‘digital wellness’ techniques into their daily lives—remains to be seen.
A new study finds that dogs fed fresh human-grade food don't need to eat—or do their business—as much.
- Most dogs eat a diet that's primarily kibble.
- When fed a fresh-food diet, however, they don't need to consume as much.
- Dogs on fresh-food diets have healthier gut biomes.
Four diets were tested<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTU5ODI1MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NjY0NjIxMn0._w0k-qFOC86AqmtPHJBK_i-9F5oVyVYsYtUrdvfUxWQ/img.jpg?width=980" id="1b1e4" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="87937436a81c700a8ab3b1d763354843" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1440" data-height="960" />
Credit: AntonioDiaz/Adobe Stock<p>The researchers tested refrigerated and fresh human-grade foods against kibble, the food most dogs live on. The <a href="https://frontierpets.com.au/blogs/news/how-kibble-or-dry-dog-food-is-made" target="_blank">ingredients</a> of kibble are mashed into a dough and then extruded, forced through a die of some kind into the desired shape — think a <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_extrusion" target="_blank">pasta maker</a>. The resulting pellets are sprayed with additional flavor and color.</p><p>For four weeks, researchers fed 12 beagles one of four diets:</p><ol><li>a extruded diet — Blue Buffalo Chicken and Brown Rice Recipe</li><li>a fresh refrigerated diet — Freshpet Roasted Meals Tender Chicken Recipe</li><li>a fresh diet — JustFoodforDogs Beef & Russet Potato Recipe</li><li>another fresh diet — JustFoodforDogs Chicken & White Rice Recipe.</li></ol><p>The two fresh diets contained minimally processed beef, chicken, broccoli, rice, carrots, and various food chunks in a canine casserole of sorts. </p><p>(One can't help but think how hard it would be to get finicky cats to test new diets. As if.)</p><p>Senior author <a href="https://ansc.illinois.edu/directory/ksswanso" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Kelly S. Swanson</a> of U of I's Department of Animal Sciences and the Division of Nutritional Sciences, was a bit surprised at how much better dogs did on people food than even refrigerated dog chow. "Based on past research we've conducted I'm not surprised with the results when feeding human-grade compared to an extruded dry diet," he <a href="https://aces.illinois.edu/news/feed-fido-fresh-human-grade-dog-food-scoop-less-poop" target="_blank">says</a>, adding, "However, I did not expect to see how well the human-grade fresh food performed, even compared to a fresh commercial processed brand."</p>
Tracking the effect of each diet<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTU5ODI1OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY3NjY1NTgyOX0.AdyMb8OEcjCD6iWYnXjToDmcnjfTSn-0-dfG96SIpUA/img.jpg?width=980" id="da892" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="880d952420679aeccd1eaf32b5339810" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1440" data-height="960" />
Credit: Patryk Kosmider/Adobe Stock<p>The researchers tracked the dogs' weights and analyzed the microbiota in their fecal matter.</p><p>It turned out that the dogs on kibble had to eat more to maintain their body weight. This resulted in their producing 1.5 to 2.9 times the amount of poop produced by dogs on the fresh diets.</p><p>Says Swanson, "This is consistent with a 2019 National Institute of Health study in humans that found people eating a fresh whole food diet consumed on average 500 less calories per day, and reported being more satisfied, than people eating a more processed diet."</p><p>Maybe even more interesting was the effect of fresh food on the gut biome. Though there remains much we don't yet know about microbiota, it was nonetheless the case that the microbial communities found in fresh-food poo was different.</p><p>"Because a healthy gut means a healthy mutt," says Swanson, "fecal microbial and metabolite profiles are important readouts of diet assessment. As we have shown in <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jas/article/92/9/3781/4702209#110855647" target="_blank">previous studies</a>, the fecal microbial communities of healthy dogs fed fresh diets were different than those fed kibble. These unique microbial profiles were likely due to differences in diet processing, ingredient source, and the concentration and type of dietary fibers, proteins, and fats that are known to influence what is digested by the dog and what reaches the colon for fermentation."</p>
How did kibble take over canine diets?<p>Historically, dogs ate scraps left over by humans. It has only been <a href="https://www.thefarmersdog.com/digest/the-history-of-commercial-pet-food-a-great-american-marketing-story/" target="_blank">since 1870</a>, with the arrival of the luxe Spratt's Meat Fibrine Dog Cakes—made from "the dried unsalted gelatinous parts of Prairie Beef", mmm—that commercial dog food began to take hold. Dog bone-shaped biscuits first appeared in 1907. Ken-L Ration dates from 1922. Kibble was first extruded in 1956. Pet food had become a great way to turn <a href="https://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/choosing-dog-food/animal-by-products/" target="_blank">human-food waste</a> into profit.</p><p>Commercial dog food became the norm for most household canines only after a massive marketing campaign led by a group of dog-food industry lobbyists called the Pet Food Institute in 1964. Over time, for most households, dog food was what dogs ate — what else? Human food? These days more than half of U.S. dogs are <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/03/magazine/who-made-that-dog-biscuit.html" target="_blank">overweight or obese</a>, and certainly their diet is a factor.<span></span></p><p>We're not so special among animals after all. If something's healthy for us to eat—we're <em>not</em> looking at you, chocolate—maybe we should remember to share with our canine compatriots. Not from the table, though.</p>
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Eating veggies is good for you. Now we can stop debating how much we should eat.
- A massive new study confirms that five servings of fruit and veggies a day can lower the risk of death.
- The maximum benefit is found at two servings of fruit and three of veggies—anything more offers no extra benefit according to the researchers.
- Not all fruits and veggies are equal. Leafy greens are better for you than starchy corn and potatoes.