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Disconnect2Reconnect? Understanding Well-Being in an Increasingly Digital Society

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Disconnect2Reconnect (Disconnect2Reconnect? Understanding Well-Being in an Increasingly Digital Society)

Période du rapport: 2021-01-01 au 2022-12-31

Surrounded by the constant presence of digital technology, citizens of today are increasingly facing challenges in using digital media in a personally balanced way. How can people manage digital media use effectively with the continuous information flow over digital devices, where information is not only abundant but also complex? As ideas of controlled digital media use, such as ‘digital detoxes’, are increasingly being advertised in mainstream media and gaining public popularity, there is an urgent need for scholars to understand whether and how people’s management of their digital media use may enhance their well-being.
The EU-funded Disconnect2Reconnect project develops a theory-driven model to study the mechanisms of digital media use, strategies of disconnecting from digital media, and consequences for well-being among digital media users. It contributes to developing recommendations, tailored guidelines and educational interventions, and gives insight into how digital media can be used in a way that enhances well-being.
The Disconnect2Reconnect project examines the short-term and long-term relationships between people’s digital media uses, disconnection behaviors, and well-being. The project also considers questions around digital inequality, and examines how digital skills shape people’s use of disconnection strategies, and how this relates to the benefits they derive from such disconnection. The project uses a multi-method approach and combines mobile experience sampling methods with panel surveys.
Given that effects of digital media use and content are often short-lived, the first study draws on mobile experience sampling and digital trace data to understand how situational contexts shape the dynamics between digital media use, disconnection, and short-term well-being outcomes throughout the day. In this project, 105 participants filled out multiple questionnaires each day over the course of one week. The results show that, on average, taking a break from digital media does not affect short-term well-being outcomes (i.e. affective well-being, social connectedness, daily life satisfaction). Here, digital skills also do not play a major role in people’s everyday disconnection experiences. However, people’s reactions to breaks from technology vary greatly. Some people experience no or negative effects of disconnection on their well-being, while others experience positive effects. The study also finds that when people take a break from digital media while being with co-present others, this has short-term positive effects on their well-being. This project gives a nuanced picture of the benefits – or lack of these – of what taking breaks from digital media can do for people’s well-being.
The second study entails a three-wave panel survey over the course of one year to investigate the long-term relationships between digital media use, digital disconnection, and well-being outcomes. It also examines the antecedents of people’s disconnection behaviors, such as how social norms about digital disconnection exert their influence. First, the results reveal that normative perceptions of being digitally available are still more dominant than norms of digital disconnection, in today’s digital society. This means that people feel more pressured to be available digitally than to disconnect from digital media. However, normative perceptions of digital disconnection can weaken the influence of norms of digital availability – and help people manage their digital media uses. The results also show that individual resources, such as one’s mindfulness, can help people cope with conflicting expectations around digital media use. These insights are relevant for developing interventions to promote digital well-being. Further analyses will reveal how people’s digital disconnection behaviors are related to subjective well-being over time, and how digital skills shape this relationship. Overall, this project provides important theoretical and methodological innovations on studying contemporary digital media behaviors.
The project ran from 2021-2023. The results have been disseminated at key national and international conferences in media and communication science, such as at the Netherlands-Flanders Communication Association (NeFCA) and the International Communication Association (ICA). Research reports are currently in production, or in review with key journals in the field of media and communication science, and will be made available open access upon publication.
The results of the Disconnect2Reconnect project provide concrete starting points for the development of interventions that promote digital well-being, and thereby bring important benefits for society. Potential end users of the project results could be organizations that employ a large share of knowledge workers who are using digital media on a daily basis, as they could implement the findings of this action in organizational policies and interventions to promote digital well-being. Finally, the results of this action also contribute towards European policy objectives, such as the 21st century ‘Digital Competence Framework’. Specifically, the results of this action give insight into the individual resources and skills needed to thrive in today’s constantly connected digital society.
Source: Unsplash