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Session Overview
Session 04: Relationships at Times of Social Media
Thursday, 07/Sep/2017:
10:30am - 11:30am

Session Chair: Amy C. Orben
Location: Room CIV 160

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“Put your phone down”: How mothers' smartphone usage influences their sensitivity

Lara Nikola Wolfers, Sophie Katharina Kitzmann, Sabine Sauer, Nina Sommer

Universität Hohenheim, Germany

International media outlets reported on the danger of increasing smartphone use by caregivers for the development and well-being of their children without building these warnings on research findings. By integrating a lot of different functionalities and by enabling shorter usage periods, smartphones could, however, distract parents from their children. Child development research suggests that ongoing distraction while caring for children can be problematic. There have only been very few studies which focused on the impact of caregivers’ smartphone use on interactions with the child. Moreover, there is a lack of data on the actual smartphone use of mothers while taking care of their children.

Building on John Bowlby’s and Mary Ainsworth’s Attachment Theory, we predicted that the duration and frequency of mothers’ smartphone usage will have a negative impact on their maternal sensitivity. We further assessed the influence of mothers’ type of smartphone use on their sensitivity and if the type of use moderates the effect of smartphone usage on sensitivity.

We collected data from 89 mother-child dyads on playgrounds in Stuttgart, Germany (Mothers: M=33 years; Toddlers: M=20 months, 43% female). We observed mothers for a ten-minutes period in teams of two, ranked them on the Mini-Maternal Behavior Q-Sort, and invited them to participate in a short interview including questions regarding socio-demographics, smartphone use on an average day, and the types of smartphone use in the previous 15 minutes. Results show that nearly half of the observed mothers used their smartphones during our observation (43%; duration of use M=37 sec, SD=72 sec; frequency M=1.1, SD=1.6). The most frequently reported types of use were talking and texting with family and friends, organizing everyday life, and taking photos while only few mothers worked or informed themselves about current events. None of the mothers played games. A stepwise regression analysis revealed that the longer mothers used their smartphones, the less sensitive they were towards their child (β=-.51, p<.001). In contrast, using the smartphone more often was not associated with a lower sensitivity rating (β=.15, p=.270). Mothers who communicated more with friends or family interacted more sensitive with their children when controlling for duration and frequency of use (β=.24, p<.047). The types of use did not moderate the relationship between mothers’ smartphone use and their sensitivity.

In summary, our results confirm a negative association between maternal sensitivity and the duration of mothers’ smartphone use. However, some content seems to have a positive impact when controlling for the negative duration effect. As we cannot assess the question of causality, it is also possible that the way a smartphone is used while taking care of children is an expression of sensitivity. Further research should concentrate on investigating the causal link between caregivers’ smartphone use and their sensitivity and should also consider positive effects of the content of smartphone usage.

(R)evolutionary? Investigating offline theories of relationship formation in a social media context

Amy C. Orben, Robin I. M. Dunbar

University of Oxford, United Kingdom

Tweet, unlike, hashtag, unfriend: Over the last five years these terms have been introduced into the Oxford English Dictionary. They are now an acknowledged part of the English language, and arguably a part of human life. Many communication researchers stress, however, that social media is not “replacing, revolutionizing or reversing" traditional communication (Baym et al., 2007). Instead, they think that social media adopts a supplementary role. It is, however, still unclear how social media affects relationship development. Does it utilise the same processes used during offline communication, and therefore adopt a more supplementary role? Or does it affect relationship development via a completely new pathway?

Answering these questions is challenging. Some forms of social media interaction are very different to offline communication. For example, offline communication is often characterised as directed and reciprocal self-disclosure (Altman & Taylor, 1973). Yet, social media users do not always take part in directed and reciprocated interaction online. Instead, they can also passively consume social information made available to them by these media (Burke, Kraut, & Marlow, 2011). Passive consumption is when a person examines the social media posts of another user without interacting with them. Our study uses a novel longitudinal design to examine how passive consumption of self-disclosures influences relationship development. In particular, we examine the effect of two self-disclosure characteristics: intimacy and valence. These characteristics have been shown to influence the effects of offline communication. In offline communication, perception of the self-disclosures and feelings of homophily with the self-discloser mediate the influence of these characteristics. We therefore also examine whether this mediation effect takes place during passive consumption.

In the 13-day longitudinal study, 243 participants receive daily updates from a previously unknown target. The daily updates simulate the process of passive consumption on social media and vary in valence and intimacy levels. The study adds significant value to the literature because of its longitudinal design. Previous research only investigated these questions using retrospective ( Rains & Brunner, 2015; Utz, 2015) or cross-sectional experimental methodology (Baruh & Cemalcılar, 2015; Bazarova, 2012).

We found that high intimacy posts or negative posts decrease the social attractiveness of the self-discloser. The perception of the posts and the receiver's feelings of homophily to the self-discloser mediate this relationship. Studies of offline interpersonal interaction have found similar results. This suggests that reading posts on social media and interacting in real life triggers similar or identical relationship formation pathways. These results support the argument that passive consumption is a new method of interaction that does not fundamentally change human psychology. While novel, passive consumption is still based on the same principles as offline communication.

“Phubbing”, only caused by “Fear of Missing Out”? – Comparing different causes of problematic usage of mobile phones in social situations

Christian Bosau, Jens Panakkal

Rheinische Fachhochschule Köln (RFH), Germany

“Phubbing” (snubbing someone in favour of your mobile phone) is still a very new phenomenon that needs further theoretical understanding (Lobe, 2014). Why would people use their mobile phones in social situations when they are supposed to talk to their friends that they are meeting in person? Studies could already show, that FoMO (Fear of Missing Out) seems to be an important predictor for this behaviour (Bosau & Kühn, 2015, Bosau & Ruvinsky, 2016): the fear of missing out on simultaneous experiences of other friends that are not personally present leads to higher and more problematic usage of mobile phones in social situations. However, it could also be reasoned that phubbing behaviour might just be a consequence of avoiding social interaction because of social anxiety. People probably avoid social interaction by using their phones as distraction tools. Likewise, phubbing could plausibly be explained by cognitive concentration problems that lead to distraction from the social conversation due to the presence of the mobile phone. Furthermore, it is well known that social norms do play an important role in explaining social behaviour. Therefore, this study extends former research by comparing different causes - besides FoMo - to explain phubbing behaviour.

The online-study (N=309) – including a wide age range (15 to 59 years) instead of looking only at young people - analysed the influence of FoMO (measured by Przybylski, Murayama, DeHaan & Gladwell, 2013) on Phubbing (measured by Roberts & David, 2016) and compared it to Social Interaction Anxiety (measured by Fergus, Valentiner, McGrath, Gier-Lonsway & Kim, 2012), cognitive concentration issues (measured by Jacobs, 2015) as well as social norms regarding phubbing behaviour. Several stepwise regression analyses using bootstrapping were calculated to analyse the explaining power of the different predictors.

The results can confirm - similar to former studies – that FoMO is a very strong predictor (beta = .33, p < .00): people with more FoMO show more phubbing behaviour in social situations. Additionally, phubbing is more likely a phenomenon of younger people (beta = -.14, p < .00). However, cognitive issues like concentration problems do also play an important role. The more people admit that they have problems to concentrate on one single task the more they phub in front of other people (beta = .12, p < .05). Furthermore, the fact that their social environment also shows phubbing behaviour intensifies people’s own phubbing behaviour (beta = .23, p < .00). Only Social Interaction Anxiety seems to be no important predictor (beta = -.01, p < .89) since it is strongly correlated with FoMO itself (r = .33, p < .00). Altogether the predictors can explain almost one third of the variance of phubbing behaviour (adj. R2 = .29). Interestingly, the influence of some of the predictors differs significantly between males and females with concentration problems and social norms being higher predictors for females.

While FoMO still remains the most important predictor for phubbing behaviour other predictors like social norms as well as concentration problems can explain why people snub on friends.

SMARTPHONE USE IN CO-PRESENT INTERACTIONS How Do Mobile Phone Norms, Being Permanently Online/Permanently Connected, and Fear of Missing Out Relate to Phubbing Behavior?

Selina Hitzfeld, Frank M. Schneider

University of Mannheim, Germany

Smartphones are embedded in almost every part of an individual’s life. Even in co-present interactions, the handheld devices are used frequently (Turkle, 2015). The use of smartphones in co-present interactions, however, is often regarded as a disturbance (e.g., Chotpitayasunondh & Douglas, 2016). This inappropriate smartphone usage (e.g., Vanden Abeele et al., 2016) has been termed phubbing, compromising the words ‘phone’ and ‘snubbing’. Phubbing behavior emphasizes the negative aspect of phone usage by obviously ignoring those being present which in turn has consequences for social interactions (e.g., Misra et al., 2016). Although being a worldwide phenomenon, little is known about what determines phubbing behavior in the first place.

Drawing on injunctive norms (i.e., what ought to be done), the study’s primary aim was to shed light on the relationship between etiquettes of how to use one’s phone in the presence of others, referred to as mobile phone norms (MPN), and phubbing behavior. Injunctive norms are connected with how individuals expect themselves and others to behave. Whether one ought to check one’s smartphone for example, is determined by an individual sense of injunctive norms. Furthermore, based on today’s ‘always-on’ society, being permanently online/ permanently connected (POPC) and Fear of Missing Out (FoMO) were taken into account as additional predictors. The motivation to be POPC is expressed through a constant vigilance towards one’s digital device (Reinecke et al., 2017) and sufferers of FoMO (Przybylski et al., 2013) want to permanently check online content in order not to miss out on online experiences, which is why the constructs were assumed to be predictors of phone usage in social togetherness. Additionally, the moderating roles of POPC and FoMO on the relationship between MPN and phubbing behavior were investigated.

The findings of a quantitative online survey (N = 278) showed that MPN were negatively related to phubbing behavior. Individuals with strong MPN engaged in phubbing less than those with weak MPN. Although POPC and FoMO did not significantly moderate this relationship, both POPC and FoMO significantly positively predicted phubbing behavior. These preliminary findings support the notion of MPN, POPC and FoMO as important predictors of phubbing behavior. Thus, we conclude that especially by negotiating and developing common MPN, phubbing behavior could be reduced, whereby individuals would pay more attention to co-present interactions. The results of the study on this relatively new research field encompassing phubbing behavior provide a suitable framework for future directions.

Although our correlational design prevents us from making causal claims, we assume that POPC and FoMO are trait-like characteristics of an individual that influence phubbing behavior. We also think that the same may hold true for MPN. However, in the long run and with regard to specific target groups (e.g., adolescents), phubbing behavior may influence an individual’s perception of MPN and, thus, the causal relation might also work the other way around. Hence, future studies should refine the present framework by applying experimental or longitudinal designs to delve deeper into the causal mechanisms that underlie these relationships.

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