Our mission at Onward is to help people achieve Tech-Life Balance through good science and data. Onward’s success lies in its unique approach to screen time tracking and blocking. This has given us a large population of users to analyze the how and why of tech addiction.
We took a close look at the sites and apps that users (n=7000, US, iOS) express the greatest desire to control and the ones they feel they lack the most control over. In other words, their list of most hated or problematic apps.
App / Site
This means for example that 73% of all people using Onward chose to block Instagram with our Smart Filter technology. Because you can choose multiple sites to track and block, the numbers don’t add up to 100.
Unsurprisingly, social media apps are the most hated app by category.
More surprising was the large number of people who found Youtube, Tumblr and Netflix problematic. What they each have in common is a socially-reinforced algorithm that attempts to surface content you’ll find interesting. Perhaps this suggests a growing backlash against such approaches.
Also interesting was the lack of shopping sites and poor showing for Porn companies on this list. Perhaps e-commerce sites and apps don’t hold the same sway over people, or perhaps they are rationalized as being practical. It’s also likely that as Porn companies have fallen behind in the use of engagement algorithms, they have become less “sticky” (ack!) relative to their social media competitors.
Facebook: A Closer Look
Instagram and Facebook (including messenger) make up Facebook’s largest social properties. When we took a closer look at those who chose to block one (or more) of their properties, the results were quite unexpected.
Percentage of Users Blocking
|Facebook and Instagram||45%|
|Neither Facebook NOR instagram||19%|
This means that 81% of people using Onward to track screen time and block apps chose to block either Facebook or Instagram.
Most interestingly, nearly half of all users chose to block both Facebook and Instagram. This suggests that the algorithms used by Facebook properties are creating caustic reactions in some users. Long-term, this over-emphasis on compulsive behavior is likely to produce more negative reactions among consumers and further customer defections in the vein of #deletefacebook.
Although consumers may not be able to express how social media giants like Facebook, Snapchat, Pinterest and Twitter do it – they clearly understand that these sites are causing them to feel compulsive or addicted. It also suggests clearly that consumers can distinguish between various apps and sites and have a more nuanced attitude towards “screen time” than most of the media dialogue would suggest.
And while Facebook properties dominate the list, America’s most hated apps aren’t limited to just social media and (as predicted) pornography. Beloved – and benign-seeming – sites like Netflix and Youtube, which also use sophisticated algorithms to drive user engagement, feature prominently.
As this issue continues to gain momentum, companies must be conscious of the negative effects they’re having on users, and individuals must take steps to protect themselves and their most precious asset – time. Onward is designed to do just that – helping you achieve Tech-Life balance using the latest science. You can download Onward at https://onward.org