Facebook gives users a way to take a break from notification hell

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Facebook users can now easily take a break from the deluge of friend requests, event notifications, and comments on their posts that pop up on their screens.

The social networking giant has introduced a “quiet mode” that lets users silence notifications and limit the amount of time they spend on the service. The new features are intended to give users more time to work or chill out as they spend more time at home because of the coronavirus epidemic.

“As we all adjust to new routines and staying home, setting boundaries for how you spend your time online can be helpful,” the company said in a blog post. “Whether it’s to help you focus on your family and friends, sleep without distraction or manage how you spend your time at home, we have tools that can help you find the right balance for how you use Facebook.”

Quiet mode, which can be activated via the Your Time on Facebook setting, lets users silence most in-app notifications, including alerts to events, comments, photo or status tags, and messages, as well as those they receive on their mobile devices when they’re not using the app. Certain notifications that Facebook says it’s legally required to provide, like privacy updates, are not included.

Users can set quiet mode whenever they want or they can schedule it. If users try to log in during quiet mode, they will be reminded that they had set that time aside and will be shown the amount of time that’s left before their quiet time ends.  

Prior to the debut of quiet mode, users had far less control of their notifications. They had to individually select the notifications they didn’t want to receive and they could not set times for when those would turn on or off.

The debut of quiet mode is unrelated to the coronavirus pandemic, Facebook said. But it comes at a time when people are using the service more than ever.

Since the coronavirus outbreak, Facebook said it has experienced “new records in usage almost every day.” For example, messaging increased more than 50% in countries hardest hit by the virus in March. In Italy alone, users spent 70% more time on Facebook-owned apps, which include WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram. Messaging services accounted for much of the increased traffic, but use of the news feed and stories features also increased.

Facebook has long been criticized for encouraging digital addiction while critics accused it of causing depression and anxiety. In response, Facebook has created a team that regularly monitors how people use the service and the effects it has on their mental and physical health.

Even Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has suggested it’s more important that users make valuable connections on the social network versus spending endless hours scrolling through content.

In addition to quiet mode, Facebook is also giving users more data about the amount of time they’re spending on the service. Your Time on Facebook, which debuted in 2018, also now includes weekly statistics showing a week-over-week comparison of how much time a user spent per day, whether that time was spent during the day or night, and how many times the app was opened.

The new features are being introduced globally on iOS devices over the next month. Facebook plans to debut the feature for Android devices in May.

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