Time distortion when users at-risk for social media addiction engage in non-social media tasks

J Psychiatr Res. 2018 Feb;97:84-88. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2017.11.014. Epub 2017 Dec 2.


Background: There is a growing concern over the addictiveness of Social Media use. Additional representative indicators of impaired control are needed in order to distinguish presumed social media addiction from normal use.

Aims: (1) To examine the existence of time distortion during non-social media use tasks that involve social media cues among those who may be considered at-risk for social media addiction. (2) To examine the usefulness of this distortion for at-risk vs. low/no-risk classification.

Method: We used a task that prevented Facebook use and invoked Facebook reflections (survey on self-control strategies) and subsequently measured estimated vs. actual task completion time. We captured the level of addiction using the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale in the survey, and we used a common cutoff criterion to classify people as at-risk vs. low/no-risk of Facebook addiction.

Results: The at-risk group presented significant upward time estimate bias and the low/no-risk group presented significant downward time estimate bias. The bias was positively correlated with Facebook addiction scores. It was efficacious, especially when combined with self-reported estimates of extent of Facebook use, in classifying people to the two categories.

Conclusions: Our study points to a novel, easy to obtain, and useful marker of at-risk for social media addiction, which may be considered for inclusion in diagnosis tools and procedures.

Keywords: Internet addiction; Social media addiction; Time distortion; Time perception.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Behavior, Addictive / diagnosis*
  • Behavior, Addictive / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Risk Assessment
  • Social Media*
  • Time Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult