Social media giants announce new tools for users to limit use

By Matt Niswonger

digital well beingEARLIER THIS MONTH, FACEBOOK AND INSTAGRAM announced new tools for users to set time limits on their platforms, and a dashboard to monitor one’s daily use, following Google’s introduction of Digital Well Being features. In doing so the companies seem to suggest that spending time on the internet is not a desirable, healthy habit, but a pleasurable vice: one that if left uncontrolled may slip into unappealing addiction.

Having secured our attention more completely than ever dreamed, they now are carefully admitting it’s time to give some of it back, so we can meet our children’s eyes unfiltered by Clarendon or Lark; go see a movie in a theater; or contra Apple’s ad for its watch, even go surfing without — heaven forfend — “checking in.”

“The liberation of human attention may be the defining moral and political struggle of our time,” writes James Williams, a technologist turned philosopher and the author of a new book, Stand Out of Our Light. Williams, 36, should know. During a decade-long tenure at Google, he worked on search advertising, helping perfect a powerful, data-driven advertising model. Gradually, he began to feel that his life story as he knew it was coming unglued, “as though the floor was crumbling under my feet,” he writes.

ASJ will continue to cover this issue as we explore the costs vs. the benefits of our increasingly digital lifestyle.