(Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

It’s happened to all of us: you check one thing on your smartphone, which leads to checking another, and then before you know it, that quick email check as become a half-hour social media doomscroll. And we’re likely not even aware of it. Social media users in particular often enter a “dissociative state” when absorbed checking Twitter, Instagram, TokTok and the rest.

While there are several kinds of dissociative states, researchers are talking about losing track of time, in the same sense we do when absorbed in a good book or simply daydreaming.  They prefer “dissociative” to the more commonly used social media “addiction,” the latter of which they say makes users feel shameful, whereas dissociation is a more natural condition.

Researchers created an app called Chirp, which was connected to a user’s Twitter. It allowed users to interact with their Twitter normally, but also allowed researchers to monitor that use, and also to regularly display 1-to-5 rating statements via pop-up messages, like, “I am currently using Chirp without really paying attention to what I am doing.”

Of the 43 nationwide participants in the one-month study, 42% strongly agreed with the pop-up statement, with a significant number saying they experienced a dissociative state.

Chirp also gave users the ability to display interventions, such as “You’re all caught up!” when they’d seen all of the new tweets, as well as a dialog box that popped up every 20 minutes, asking users if they wanted to keep using Chirp.

Researchers say participants in general appreciated the pop-up reminders, but not so much when they were checking Twitter for recreation and didn’t care how long they spent.