UW study shows people enter ‘dissociative state’ while using social media

SEATTLE — University of Washington researchers found that people may not be addicted to social media but instead enter a “dissociative state,” while scrolling through posts.

UW likened the state to being transported into another world when reading a good book, for instance.

The team of researchers developed a platform similar to Twitter to show how some people space out while scrolling.

The team also designed intervention strategies that social media platforms could use to help people have more control over their online experiences.

One intervention strategy was that users would get a “you’re all caught up!” message when they had seen all new tweets, combined with people organizing all the accounts they followed into lists.

The study showed that participants liked having smaller pieces of content.

Researchers said the problem with social media is not that people don’t have the self-control needed to prevent themselves from spending too much time on the platforms, but that the platforms are not designed to “maximize what people value.”

“Taking these so-called mindless breaks can be really restorative,” the researchers say. “But social media platforms are designed to keep people scrolling. When we are in a dissociative state, we have a diminished sense of agency, which makes us more vulnerable to those designs and we lose track of time. These platforms need to create an end-of-use experience, so that people can have it fit in their day with their time-management goals.”

Read more about the study at this link.