YouTube mobile app now tells you how much of your life you’re spending on it

Google seems to be concerned about pathological use of its YouTube video platform to it has made some new tools to help manage addiction.

The wonderfully euphemistic premise for this move is the neologism ‘digital wellbeing’. Since we don’t actually exist digitally this can only refer to the health (largely mental but in extreme cases possibly physical too) implications of spending too much time online. “Our goal is to provide a better understanding of time spent on YouTube, so you can make informed decisions about how you want YouTube to best fit into your life,” says the blog post announcing these new tools.

Firstly you can now easily see how much time you’ve spent watching YouTube via your account page. ‘Time watched’ is now prominently displayed when you navigate you your account page via the mobile app (although not via the desktop route) and prodding that reveals stats on you much time you’ve spent watching YouTube vids, including your daily average for the past week. We imagine this could present a pretty brutal wake-up call for some people.

On that note, within the same set of tools is the ability to aggregate all your YouTube notifications (reminders that someone you follow has uploaded new material) into a daily digest, rather than be constantly be bombarded by enticements to watch another vid. There’s even the capacity to set yourself a cap on the amount of time you spend on YouTube, which will allow the app to act as your conscience and urge you to expand your horizons once that time threshold is reached. You can even disable notifications to allow you to get some rest before the next binge.

“We’re dedicated to making sure that you have the information you need to better understand how you use YouTube and develop your own sense of digital wellbeing,” concludes the blog, written by Brian Marquardt, Director of Product Management, who felt the need to tell us he recently watched a YouTube clip of James Corden hanging out with The Backstreet Boys.

Google makes money every time someone watches a YouTube video it serves ads onto, so why would it be trying to help people spending less time doing so? The likely answer is that some people find it so addictive they’ve taken to abandoning the platform entirely in order to do other things like leaving the house and talking to people in real life. Google presumably wants to help them maintain their addictions at levels just short of pathological, to maximise YouTube traffic.

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