Using Facebook can be a fun way to while away the hours — but a new study suggests that updating your status or commenting on a friend’s holiday pictures can make us lose track of time as we do it.
People who are using Facebook or surfing the web suffer impaired perception of time, said the study published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology. “We found evidence that Internet and Facebook related stimuli can distort time perception due to attention and arousal-related mechanisms,” said the study by researchers from the University of Kent in England.
The researchers found that the way people perceived time varied according to whether their internet use was specifically Facebook related or more general. Using well-established internal clock models, the researchers attempted to separate the roles of ‘attention’ and ‘arousal’ as drivers for time distortion.
In the study, Lazaros Gonidis and Dinkar Sharma monitored the responses of 44 people who were shown images for varying degrees of time. While some of the images were associated with Facebook, another set had more general internet associations with yet another set as neutral ‘control’ images.
Those taking part had to say whether the image they had just seen had been visible for a short or long time. The key finding was that people tended to underestimate the time they had been looking at Facebook-related images to a greater extent than other more general internet-related images, but that in both cases time was underestimated.
This suggests that Facebook-related images affect time by changing how we pay attention to them. The researchers believe that the findings are likely to have implications for future study into addictive behaviour.