Is It Helpful to Find Out How You Spend Time on Your Mobile Device?

YouTube just announced a feature to find out how much time you spend watching videos. Facebook and Instagram are rolling out features to allow users to know how much time they spend on their apps. Google and Apple are letting users know how their time is spent on their devices.

Is this information we need to know? Does this information help guide you into making better use of your time with your phone or tablet? Is it helpful to find out how you spend time on your mobile device?

Miguel thinks it’s only helpful if you want it to be. Anyone who wants to know is already tracking their time “using more vague metrics than what Google, Apple, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube would be able to provide.” With these features being introduced, it’s good news for those people, and for those who don’t really care about time management, “it’s not going to make a lick of difference.”

Ryan agrees with Miguel. Personally, he doesn’t think he’d get much use out of having that type of information. However, he thinks it “will definitely be a wakeup call for some people.”

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The answer in Phil’s case is “a lot.” He’d like to be able to set a limit on how much YouTube he watches and for it to cut out on him and not allow him back on unless he takes time from the next day. He says, “It might make me a bit more prudent, as I never watch as much TV as I do YouTube. It’s just too open-ended.”

Alex is very eager to get access to Apple Screen Time features that are being introduced in iOS 12 that should be released sometime in September. Limiting time on a specific app is a feature he’s wanted for some time. He adds, “I am glad to see tech companies finally taking a glimmer of responsibility for creating products built to distract.”

Damien agrees with Miguel and Ryan that it’s helpful to have the information, but it’s really not that useful to him. He is quite aware of his screen time and does his best to control it. “With or without the information, I will still be doing the same thing.”

Andrew does like having personal data about his habits, “as long as it’s not being broadcast to advertisers.” He thinks it could be interesting for a bit, but he’s tried time management programs before and ends up forgetting about them after a week or so, as the time he spends on his mobile devices varies from day to day.

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It’s difficult for him to categorize what is leisure time and what isn’t, yet for apps that he knows are problematic, he would appreciate getting warnings or “firmer prompts to take a break.”

What he’d like is some type of access to the metrics that probably already exist about him on these sites, such as what types of articles he is reading, how much time he spends watching one show compared to another, and how many products he looks at before he chooses one. It would be fun to read, “but it would probably freak people out to have the visual signal that somebody is tracking that precisely.”

Like some of the others, Simon thinks it would be interesting in a “nice to know” way, but it won’t be important in his work plans. For instance, he likes to use YouTube to listen to music, podcasts, or commentary while he gets stuff done, “so the total ‘hours watched’ doesn’t automatically equal ‘total time wasted.’ “ But for the sake of seeing how much he uses it in his daily life, “it’s a fun feature.”

I have used the Screen Time feature on the public beta of iOS 12, and I do find it interesting. It hasn’t changed what I’m doing, but it backs up everything I thought. I’m not seeing that I spend too much time on frivolous things – I’m seeing that I spend a lot of time working. I also like Andrew’s idea of being able to find out more explicit information.

Do you agree with the majority of our writers that it’s interesting to have that information, but it’s not specifically helpful? Or would you take that information and utilize it, making changes to how you conduct your time? Is it helpful to find out how you spend time on your mobile device? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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