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TikTok and Instagram try to curb user addiction

Illustration by Kate Walker

TikTok and Instagram try to curb user addiction


The Future. Both TikTok and Instagram are rolling out features to help address users’ well-being, hoping to break a cycle of addiction on their platforms — even if the content they’re looking at isn’t necessarily harmful. If the new features prove successful, it may lead to the platforms seeing a decline in usage but boost user satisfaction enough to repair their poor mental-health reputations.

Detox notification
TikTok and Instagram are exploring ways to interrupt your endless scroll.


  • The platform is rolling out two new features — a daily screen-time limiter that prompts users to take a break and a screen-time dashboard so users can see a detailed breakdown of their day on the app.
  • Users can set the daily limit themselves, but those between the ages 13 and 17 will automatically receive a notification if they’ve used the app for more than 100 minutes in a single day.


  • The platform is rolling out a feature that “nudges” users away from content on the Explore page they’ve looked at for too long, offering a selection of different themes that the user can “choose to explore next.”
  • Instagram will send the nudges even if users aren’t fixating on something considered harmful — it just wants users to break the cycle.
  • The platform is also testing a “Take a Break” feature to get users off the app… if even for a little bit.

In announcing the new features yesterday, both TikTok and Instagram were strangely in-sync on their reasons for the rollouts. In a blog post, TikTok said that a recent study with the online-safety group Internet Matters found that users (especially teenagers) have a better experience if they feel in control of their online behavior.

Meanwhile, Instagram pointed to a study that found that 58.2% of users felt nudges made their app experience better “by helping them become more mindful of their time on-platform.” Again, it’s all about the feeling that they’re controlling their experience, not the app controlling them.

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