Digi Detox

Many of us have had the experience of driving down the road, deep in our own thoughts yet still able to adhere to stop signs and red lights without having much recollection of doing so.

This “highway hypnosis” is an example of dissociation, and a new study examined how people sometimes behave similarly while scrolling through facebook and instagram and how these platforms can help keep people from losing themselves and end up with facebook addiction and instagram addiction.

Dissociation comes in two flavors. Highway hypnosis and daydreaming are examples of passive dissociation, where we’re highly engaged with our internal world and less aware of the passage of time. Active dissociation, on the other hand, occurs when we purposely seek to detach from daily life through an activity that may reduce stress, such as watching a movie or listening to music.

For social-media users, active dissociation can be a refreshing break from everyday drudgery and concerns. But when the scrolling becomes mindlessly passive, it can be a waste of time and even leave some people feeling ashamed of what has been described as social-media internet addiction.

Dissociating is “a common and beneficial process,” says Amanda Baughan, a Ph.D. student and research assistant at the University of Washington, and one of the authors of the study. However “Dissociating on a platform that is designed to maximize your time on site is the problem.”

Some social-media platforms, have features designed to assist users in moderating their time on the platforms. However most have powerful algorithms that push a user into a passive dissociation mode leading to unproductive and mindless use that can be termed internet addiction.