Time perception may be altered by Facebook use, study finds

How much time do you spend browsing "status updates" or friends' pictures on Facebook? According to a new study, it is likely more than you think.

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Researchers suggest that using Facebook may lead to impaired time perception.

Researchers have found that browsing the Internet or Facebook may distort our perception of time, with the latter having the biggest impact.

Study authors Lazaros Gonidis and Dr. Dinkar Sharma, of the Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience and Cognitive Systems at the University of Kent in the United Kingdom, recently reported their findings in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology.

Thanks to smartphones and tablets, access to the Internet is at our fingertips. This has its benefits, allowing us to check e-mails on the go or search for directions, for example. However, there are downfalls to this modern convenience.

A number of studies have shown that the increasing prevalence of smartphone use can lead to Internet addiction, which can have severe implications for mental health and well-being.

Social media sites such as Facebook have done little to discourage Internet and smartphone use over the past decade. According to a 2016 report from the Pew Research Center, around 76 percent of Facebook users report visiting the site every day, with 55 percent of these visiting the site several times daily.

Previous research has shown that frequent Facebook use may raise the risk of depression and other mental health disorders.

Underestimation of time greater when viewing Facebook-related images

For their study, Gonidis and Dr. Sharma set out to investigate how Internet and Facebook use impacts time perception, an association they say might have important implications for addiction research.

To reach their findings, the researchers enrolled 44 adults and presented them with various images. Five of these images were Facebook-related, five were associated with the Internet in general, while the remaining 10 were generic “control” images.

Each image was shown to the participants for different lengths of time. After viewing each image, the subjects reported whether they had seen the image for a short or long period of time.

The researchers found that participants were more likely to underestimate the amount of time spent viewing Internet- and Facebook-related images, compared with when they viewed the control images. Facebook-related images were associated with the greatest distortion in time perception.

The team says that these findings suggest that both Internet and Facebook use may alter the perception of time by modifying the attention process.

Researchers conclude:

“We found evidence that Internet- and Facebook-related stimuli can distort time perception due to attention- and arousal-related mechanisms.”

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