Zoomed out: digital media use and depersonalization experiences during the COVID-19 lockdown

Anna Ciaunica, Luke McEllin, Julian Kiverstein, Vittorio Gallese, Jakob Hohwy, Mateusz Woźniak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Depersonalisation is a common dissociative experience characterised by distressing feelings of being detached or ‘estranged’ from one’s self and body and/or the world. The COVID-19 pandemic forcing millions of people to socially distance themselves from others and to change their lifestyle habits. We have conducted an online study of 622 participants worldwide to investigate the relationship between digital media-based activities, distal social interactions and peoples’ sense of self during the lockdown as contrasted with before the pandemic. We found that increased use of digital media-based activities and online social e-meetings correlated with higher feelings of depersonalisation. We also found that the participants reporting higher experiences of depersonalisation, also reported enhanced vividness of negative emotions (as opposed to positive emotions). Finally, participants who reported that lockdown influenced their life to a greater extent had higher occurrences of depersonalisation experiences. Our findings may help to address key questions regarding well-being during a lockdown, in the general population. Our study points to potential risks related to overly sedentary, and hyper-digitalised lifestyle habits that may induce feelings of living in one’s ‘head’ (mind), disconnected from one’s body, self and the world.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3888
Number of pages13
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

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