Media technology—from mass media to social media and from video gaming to computer-mediated communication—plays an increasingly central role in people’s lives. Due to exponential increases in computing power, people now carry incredibly powerful computers—their smartphones—everywhere they go. This ever-greater access to media technology is generating an ever-greater conflict between media activities and the unmediated activities critical for psychological well-being—from our face-to-face conversations and family time to our down time and work lives. What are the costs and benefits of people’s modern media technology use for psychological well-being? Using a complementarity-interference (CI) framework, I review research to illuminate key psychological processes (i.e., mediators) and conditions (i.e., moderators) of the relationship between media technology and psychological well-being. Based on the existing evidence, I propose an initial theoretical CI model of the effects of media technology on psychological well-being. I use this CI model to outline important directions for future research, providing guidelines for an integrated, theoretically informed research on media technology.
Keywords: Media, Communication technology, Computer-mediated communication (CMC), Subjective well-being, Human-computer interaction (HCI)
Definition Media Technology
Media technology. In this chapter, we will explore psychological well-being in the context of modern media technology. In common parlance, we often think of the word ‘media’ as referring to mass media, such as news media (e.g., TV, radio), and more recently, to social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram). But media—the plural of medium—broadly refers to any technological tool that serves as a bridge or conduit to stimuli not otherwise available in the immediate physical environment. Thus, media technology refers to books and newspapers, radio and television, video and computer games—or to any device or method people use to transcend the constraints of their immediate physical environment: from yesterday’s dial-up telephone to the today’s smartphone, and from writing a hand-written letter to texting a friend (c.f., Okdie et al., 2014). Related terms also exist in the literature including information and communication technology, or ICT, as well as computer-mediated communication, or CMC. Most of the findings discussed here apply to—and in fact come from—the literature on ICT and CMC
While using the broad term, media technology, this chapter will focus primarily on the effects of media technology developed in the past century or so, including television, video games, and, most recently, mobile computers such as smartphones. In other words, we will be focusing on screen media technology. I will use the term mediated to refer to the stimuli afforded by the media technology, and the term unmediated to refer to behavior that does not involve the use of media (e.g., face-to-face interactions). Even though media technology itself is physical, I will use the term immediate physical environment to refer to the environment in which the media technology use occurs.
more on contemplative computing in this IMS blog