Psychiatric Quarterly

, Volume 90, Issue 1, pp 217–227 | Cite as

Effect of Abstinence from Social Media on Time Perception: Differences between Low- and At-Risk for Social Media “Addiction” Groups

  • Ofir TurelEmail author
  • Daniel R. Cavagnaro
Original Paper


Time distortion is a hallmark feature of addictive behaviors including excessive technology use. It has clinically significant implications for diagnosis and treatment. Additional information on such distortions after prolonged abstinence from technology use is needed. We seek to examine differences in the effects of several days of abstinence on time-distortion in two groups: social media users who are at-risk and those who are at low risk for social media “addiction.” To examine this, we employed a randomized, two group, pre (t1) - post (t2) design. Both groups completed survey tasks that cued social media use at t1 and at t2. Between t1 and t2, the treatment group (n = 294) abstained from social media use for up to one week (less if they “broke” and decided to resume use), and the control group (n = 121) did not. Results indicated that low-risk individuals in both the treatment and control groups presented downward time bias at t1; at-risk individuals presented non-significant upward bias. After abstinence, both low- and at- risk individuals in the treatment group presented upward time distortion. This effect did not take place in the control group; low-risk users still presented significant downward bias at t2. The post-abstinence increase in time distortion was significantly more pronounced in at-risk users. These differences between pre- and post-abstinence time distortion patterns in normal and at-risk-for-“addiction” social media users can be used for adjusting and interpreting self-reports related to addictive uses of technologies.


Abstinence Addictive use of social media Internet addiction Time distortion Time perception 


Author Contributions

OT and DC designed the study, collected data, ran analyses and wrote a draft. It was edited and approved by OT and DC.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Ofir Turel declares that he has no conflict of interest. Daniel Cavagnaro declares that he has no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Decision Neuroscience, Department of PsychologyUniversity of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Information Systems and Decision SciencesCalifornia State UniversityFullertonUSA

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