Does Social Media Cause Dissociation? Here’s What to Know
Do you recall your first experience with social media? How old were you when you first signed up for a platform? People staring intently at digital screens have become the norm, but is it harming your mental health and focus? Here’s what experts have to say.
For many millennials and Gen Z individuals, it might be hard to recall that a world existed before social media since they have little to no experience living without the Internet. It might even be abnormal to get onto public transport or a building without seeing at least half of the people scrolling through their smartphones.
Whether you like it or not, social media is a constant presence in most, if not all, lives. Even those who’re not on any social media platform are likely to have friends and family who are active on social media. You might have caught yourself scrolling through Instagram or your Twitter feed for hours when you told yourself it would be just ten minutes. You’re not the only one who has this issue, which is why there are even smartphone addiction therapies that exist today.
Social media dissociation is not a new term and has been researched many times before. But a new study presented at the SIGCHI Conference by University of Washington researchers has shown that social media dissociation can lead to a lack of attention and other behavioural changes.
Social media dissociation is defined as being completely absorbed in social media and being sucked in for hours. If you’ve ever felt like you’ve dissociated with your surroundings while browsing through social media, here’s what you should know.
What Is Dissociation?
According to the Better Health Channel (Australia), dissociation is a mental process of disconnecting from one’s thoughts, feelings, memories, or sense of identity. There are various types of dissociative disorders, like dissociative amnesia or depersonalisation disorder. Symptoms of dissociation, according to Better Health Channel, are:
- Feeling disconnected from self
- Not being able to handle intense emotions
- Sudden and unexplained shifts in mood
- Depression and/or anxiety issues
- Memory problems
- Feeling compelled to behave in a particular manner
- Confusion with a sense of identity
What The Study Revealed
The study used both internal and external interventions to inquire after users when they were using Twitter. These interventions were done using an app they developed called Chirp. Internal interventions included questionnaires asking whether the individual was focusing on what was going on around them or whether they knew how much time they’ve spent on social media.
External interventions included a dialog box popping up informing the participants that they had been scrolling mindlessly. It helped them become more aware of their social media consumption.
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It’s Not All That Bad
For many of the participants in the study, taking these little mindless breaks was restorative. They were able to get back to running their errands or work tasks more productively after spending a few minutes zoning out from their environment. However, it’s only when these breaks don’t end up leading to lost hours scrolling mindlessly.
Think about setting a timer every time you are on social media apps. It can intervene at specific intervals to ensure that you are not getting lost in using social media. After all, there’s nothing really wrong with taking a few minutes off here and there.
Be Mindful About Social Media Usage
What the researchers found was that the problem was not necessarily with the people but with how social media platforms are designed themselves. It is not that people lack the self-control to prevent getting sucked in, but that the platforms are not designed to maximise what people value.
The researchers concluded by stating that these platforms need to create an ‘end-of-use experience’ so that users can fit these breaks throughout the day and align them with their time management goals. Ultimately, your social media usage does not define you, but it can change the narrative in your life. Be mindful about how much you’re using it, and don’t get in too deep down the rabbit hole before realising that it’s harmful.