KIRO NEWSRADIO

Instagram’s ‘nightly nudge’ may be a step toward healthy social media habits

Jan 26, 2024, 5:00 AM | Updated: 5:12 am

instagram nightly nudge...

The Instagram logo is being displayed on a smartphone among other social media networks in this photo illustration in Brussels, Belgium, on January 22, 2024. (Photo Illustration: Jonathan Raa/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

(Photo Illustration: Jonathan Raa/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The average teenager spends approximately five hours per day on social media and Meta, Facebook’s parent company, seeks to bring that number down with the launch of Instagram’s “nightly nudge.”

The nudge is a new parent-controlled feature that Instagram is rolling out on its platform. It will appear after 10 minutes of “doom scrolling” — internet slang for the tendency to continue to surf or scroll through sad or disheartening news — on Instagram reels or direct messaging.

It was launched to encourage kids to get off the platform and go to sleep. According to the Sleep Foundation, a majority of Americans use electronic devices within an hour of going to bed causing unsatisfactory sleep. Decreasing exposure to blue electronic light in the evening can lead to quality rest, especially among kids and teenagers.

Tech news: Gangs, social media to blame for rising PNW teen crime

Forty Attorneys General, including Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, have joined a bipartisan multi-state lawsuit against Meta for allegedly targeting kids with addictive features like video reels and direct messages. Ferguson described the suit as one of the “most robust multi-state efforts our office has ever seen or been a part of.”

Nick Norman, a local social worker with Mindful Therapy Group, said it’s easy to become addicted to social media.

“Teenagers are being drawn to something that looks interesting or appealing,” Norman told MyNorthwest. “And then the algorithm is recommending more of that to them. And so it grabs their attention pulls them in more, and it hijacks our dopamine system.”

The dangers of ‘hijacking’ dopamine

Dopamine is a chemical produced by our brains that plays a starring role in motivating behavior, according to Harvard University’s “Science in the News.” It gets released after taking a bite of delicious food, during sex, after exercise and throughout successful social interactions. Smartphones can take advantage of people’s dopamine-driven desire for social validation, experts warn, with phones optimizing the balance of negative and positive feedback signals until someone has become a habitual user.

Instagram’s nighttime nudge was created to help break this pattern among those who are more impressionable.

“Folks are going to continue scrolling,” Norman said. “But I think you can compare it to, for example, the thing that Netflix developed a few years ago — Are you still watching? — instead of that auto-continuous play. You then have to hit dismiss to continue watching ’30 Rock’ or ‘Parks and Recreation.'”

Norman stated that therapists are just now beginning to understand what’s causing limited attention spans in kids as a result of social media.

“Some are linking it back to that lowered self-esteem,” Norman added. “It’s also, to be frank, that kind of hijacking of the dopamine system, it is the root of addiction. It has a real impact on teenagers. There’s a number of different avenues that, teens are exposed to (online).”

Social comparison hurting teens

Norman claimed that an inherent comparison occurs when someone sees a curated lifestyle portrayed online. Comparing one’s self to others is built into people’s neurobiology, but with social media, social comparison can be a form of sociological self-esteem.

“It’s important for us to understand the comparison element,” Norman said. “We have to understand this is something that we deal with as human beings, but it’s been blown out of proportion online.”

More from Micki Gamez: IRS is trying a new tactic in 2024, but not everyone qualifies

Additionally, while it’s not uncommon to see social media influencers use filters to alter or beautify their appearance online, but higher-profile influencers, with large budgets at their disposal, are taking it a step further by curating a specific lifestyle on their social pages.

“Very curated images and presences online and there is a bit of a comparison element of ‘why don’t I look like that?’ ‘Why doesn’t my life look like that?’ ‘How come I’m not going on these kinds of trips?'” Norman said. “It creates a bit of a false understanding of what the reality is for the rest of us and what living really is.”

Too much comparing online and it becomes a slippery slope. So what can parents do? Implement the nightly nudge.

You can read more of Micki Gamez’s stories here. Follow Micki on X, formerly known as Twitter, or email her here.

KIRO Newsradio

Photo: Thousands of members of Boeing's Machinist Union met at T-Mobile Park Wednesday to decide wh...

James Lynch

Boeing machinists take over T-Mobile Park for strike authorization vote

Thousands of members of Boeing's Machinist Union met at T-Mobile Park Wednesday to decide whether to authorize a strike vote.

13 hours ago

Photo: Traffic on I-5....

Micki Gamez

Prepare for traffic: Sound Transit to close lane of I-5 south

Washington has two seasons: winter and construction. Sound Transit is going to close one lane on I-5 south.

14 hours ago

Image: Kimberly Cheatle is the 27th director of the U.S. Secret Service. She has held the position ...

Angela Poe Russell

Angela Poe Russell: The unlikely scapegoat in the Donald Trump assassination attempt

A Republican from Tennessee, said DEI was to blame for the tragedy that saw a gunman try to kill Donald Trump.

15 hours ago

Edmonds police...

Luke Duecy

Edmonds standoff ends with 33-year-old man arrested

A Tacoma man is behind bars after a three-and-a-half-hour standoff with police in Edmonds. Police say it started on Monday when officers responded to a disturbance call at the victim’s home. By the time officers arrived, they say the 33-year-old suspect fled. During their investigation, police say they discovered the victim suffered minor injuries and […]

18 hours ago

The big blue flame first graced the Washington Natural Gas building in Seattle in 1964; it was take...

Feliks Banel

Feliks Banel: Icon extinguished as­­­ big blue flame neon sign leaves Seattle

A neon sign that was an iconic landmark burning high above Mercer Street in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood has found a new home.

20 hours ago

Photo: Whatcom County homeless deaths are increasing, according to a report from the Opportunity Co...

KIRO Newsradio staff

Report: Whatcom County deaths of unhoused people on pace for record amount

More people are dying on the streets of Whatcom County. Opportunity Council said there have been 56 documented deaths this year.

3 days ago

Instagram’s ‘nightly nudge’ may be a step toward healthy social media habits