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Evidence Suggests the Facebook Vortex Is Real

Using the internet, and Facebook specifically, could impair your perception of time.
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This situation might seem familiar: You open the Facebook app and start scrolling…and the next thing you know it's 1 am. New research suggests that using the internet in general makes you underestimate how much time has passed, and checking Facebook only makes it worse.

Psychologists from the University of Kent in the UK rounded up 44 university students with Facebook accounts and showed them 20 images on a computer screen for seven different amounts of time each, resulting in a total of 140 tests. Five images were associated with Facebook, five with the internet in general, and the remaining 10 were neutral; they were all the same size.

The participants (33 women and 11 men) looked at images shown in random order for durations ranging from 0.4 seconds to 1.6 seconds and had to indicate whether they'd seen an image for a short or long time by pressing either the "s" key or the "l" key. Thankfully, they didn't have to do all 140 tests in one go—the researchers broke it up into five groups of 28 with a one-minute break in between. They found that, compared to the control images, people underestimated the amount of time they looked at any web-related photo, but the effect was even worse for the Facebook-related images.

They wrote that this might be because when we think about things in a more detailed way (a concrete mindset), we devote more attention to tasks than when we have a broader view (an abstract mindset). Giving more attention to tasks, and thereby less attention to time, makes time seem to go by faster. Since Facebook has more specific uses than general web surfing, they argued, the difference in concrete and abstract thinking could explain why people consistently thought the Facebook-related photos were displayed for a shorter amount of time than they actually were.

The authors noted that investigating time perception is an important task in the context of internet addiction—a real thing that can be assessed with a 20-item questionnaire—because it likely leads to people losing a lot of time, and sleep, thanks to the vortex.