Talking tech since 2003

It’s been a while since most tech websites have been able to write anything positive about Facebook. They’ve had a miserable and humiliating few years from a news point of view, during which they’ve been accused of failing to maintain basic privacy standard when handling the private information of their users, and even allowing their platform to be used to meddle in the 2016 Presidential Election in the United States of America via their failure to regulate the activities of Cambridge Analytica. CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg has managed to stay in the captain’s chair throughout these scandals, but there’s no denying that his chair got hot for a while. There were – and still are – major Facebook investors and shareholders who would prefer to see somebody else in charge of the day to day running of the company.

Even aside from the scandals, most of the new features and new projects Facebook has been working on recently appear to have been focused on making the company more money as opposed to making the user experience better for the average user. As an example, they’ve moved into the online slots business via their High 5 Casino. That’s probably great news for the million-or-so Facebook users who enjoy casino and slots, but not for the other 1.6 billion who aren’t interested. As an industry online slots casinos make billions of dollars each year and so it’s easy to see why Facebook would want a slice of that pie, but it does nothing for the people who just use the platform to stay in touch with their friends. Nor does their attempt to break into the cryptocurrency market with the long-awaited Facebook Libra wallet – although that project may ultimately be abandoned before it even sees the light of day.

In light of all the above, we’re happy to be able to bring you the news that Facebook is finally adding a feature that many of its users have been requesting for years. It’s not a major upgrade, but it’s a nice thing to have – and it’s a proper ‘quiet’ mode. If you’re an iPhone user, you may already have it – it was rolled out as part of the most recent update for the iOS version of Facebook a few days ago. Android users will have to wait a little longer before they can take advantage of it – possibly until early May – but the update has been sanctioned and approved, and its definitely on its way. Facebook is, without a doubt, one of the noisiest apps we have on our phones because of all of the notifications it generates – but we can turn them off one at a time or altogether if we please. What is this ‘quiet mode,’ then, and how does it differ from simply choosing not to receive notifications?

In the existing (or previous) versions of Facebook, ‘silencing’ notifications would only stop them from being pushed through to your lock or home screen on your phone. They would still be there staring you in the face whenever you chose to open the app, and therefore you’d probably feel compelled or obligated to open them and find out what’s being said to you or what’s going on with your friends and contacts. With this new ‘quiet mode,’ even that stops happening. Instead of being a new feature that you’ll find in your general settings, this one is hidden away under the ‘your time on Facebook’ sub-heading, and it’s connected to the statistics you’ll find underneath that tab. For want of a better phrase, Facebook is going to take a more pro-active role in pointing out how much time you spend on the platform, and offering you the chance to step back and take a break as and when you feel it’s eating up too much of your day.

When ‘quiet mode’ is activated, you won’t receive any push notifications at all, and you also won’t see little red badges telling you how many notifications or messages you have. You’ll also have the option of setting the mode to activate automatically if you wish. You can manually turn it on if the constant stream of notifications is getting too much for you, or you can choose to have it automatically turn on at a specific time, and then turn off again later. A good example of when this might be desirable would be when you’re trying to get a good night’s sleep or when you’re starting your working day, and you don’t want to be disturbed by anything that isn’t work-related. From a better night’s sleep to better productivity while you’re awake, this is a small change from Facebook that could bring big positives to those of us who just can’t resist opening up the app when we see a notification, and then losing the next ten minutes scrolling aimlessly through our news feeds.

The new ‘quiet mode’ is robust enough to resist you when you attempt to interfere with it. Once it’s turned on, any attempt to log in to Facebook via the app will take you to a purpose-built landing page, at which point you’ll be reminded that you’ve chosen to turn quiet time on, and asked if you’re sure you want to proceed before being taken to your usual home page. It comes as part of a total redesign of the ‘your time on Facebook’ section, which will include a better breakdown of the data contained there. Instead of being told how much time you spend on the app in any 24 hour period, you’ll be told how much time you spend on during the day as opposed to during the night, and which days of the week are the most active to you. Once a pattern has been identified, Facebook hopes that the strategic employment of the ‘quiet time’ mode might help you to regulate your relationship with the app better.

The feature doesn’t completely restrict access to Facebook. From a Facebook point of view, that would make no business sense whatsoever – they still want and need people to use the app so they can make advertising money! It does, however, give you the chance to take a step back from the stress that often comes with seeing and hearing your phone repeatedly light up with notifications when you have other things to concentrate on – and that has to be considered a good thing.

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