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Session Overview
Session 13: Permanently Online - Permanently Distracted?
Thursday, 07/Sep/2017:
3:30pm - 4:30pm

Session Chair: Leonard Reinecke
Location: Room CIV 260

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Don’t wanna miss a thing. Differentiating effects of instant messaging features on social well-being

Kevin Koban, Isabelle Büchel

Chemnitz University of Technology, Germany

The vision of being permanently connected with others has become a reality among teenagers and young adults (Vorderer, Krömer, & Schneider, 2016). However, this accessibility conflicts with the inherent asynchronicity of textual communication producing an unpleasant feeling of communicative uncertainty (Turkle, 2011). Accordingly, previous research revealed negative links between intense messaging and social well-being. For instance, Przybylski and colleagues (2013) found evidence that users engage more intensively in Facebook when they are afraid of missing their peers’ activities. On a similar note, individuals who have a stronger need to belong and who fear social ostracism more likely expect others to answer immediately, experience more intense negative emotions when their interaction partner does not respond at once, and also feel more obligated to answer directly (Mai, Freudenthaler, Schneider, & Vorderer, 2015).

However, findings from previous research based on social capital theory pledge for a more nuanced conception of media effects. Accordingly, direct interaction via social media, that is addressed to single individuals, acts as a valuable resource to maintain social bonds (Burke, Kraut, & Marlow, 2011), while undirected interaction with a more or less defined group of individuals and passive consumption of friends’ communications can be considered an information-seeking strategy for social bridging (Ellison, Steinfield, & Lampe, 2011). As a consequence of these varying functionalities, we assumed that different forms of interaction within an instant messaging application might be associated with distinct effects on social well-being.

The current study, thus, examines relations between instant messaging behaviors of 225 frequent users of WhatsApp (age M = 27.72, SD = 9.70) and their social relatedness (nine-item BNSQ subscale; Alpha = .75), fear of missing out (ten-item FOMOs; Alpha = .73), and fear of loneliness (modified 20-item UCLA Loneliness Scale; Alpha = .96). We calculated three hierarchical linear regressions entering overall usage intensity in the first block of predictors, both number of individual conversations and group conversations in the second block, and participants’ activity during individual conversations as well as during group conversations in the third block (Tolerance = .87–.98). Results showed that participants’ fear of missing out is predicted solely by overall usage intensity (standardized Beta = .14, t(219) = 2.19, p = .03) and activity during group conversations (standardized Beta = .36, t(219) = 5.66, p < .01), while participants’ activity during individual conversations (standardized Beta = 0.14, t(219) = 2.06, p = .04) was the only significant predictor for social relatedness. However, none of the predictors significantly predicted fear of loneliness.

These findings are in line with an argument by Przybylski and colleagues (2013) who postulated that social media possess a unique double-edged quality creating both pleasurable and adverse effects by providing an infinite stream of potentially rewarding social experiences. More importantly, our results indicate that a high activity in more undirected group conversations is a stronger predictor of users’ fear of missing out than the mere number of sent and received messages, while a high activity in directed communications is linked to a stronger feeling of social relatedness.

Permanently on and never switching off? The role of online vigilance as a source of digital stress

Leonard Reinecke1, Adrian Meier1, Christoph Klimmt2, Dorothée Hefner2, Reich Sabine2, Rieger Diana3, Peter Vorderer3

1University of Mainz, Germany; 2Hanover University of Music, Drama, and Media, Germany; 3University of Mannheim, Germany

A growing number of studies suggest that the constant availability of online content and communication via mobile Internet connections and smartphones is a source of “digital stress” (Misra & Stokols, 2012; Reinecke et al., 2017). This study aims at expanding this line of research by exploring the role of online vigilance, a state of permanent cognitive orientation towards online content and communication (AUTHORS, 2017; in press): People high in online vigilance think more often and more elaborately about their personal online sphere even when they are offline (salience of the online world). Online vigilance is associated with a constant readiness to react to online communication, even if this means interrupting other activities (reactibility), and with a tendency to constantly observe one’s online communication environment (e.g., by checking the smartphone) (monitoring).

Based on previous research on online communication, we expected that both external drivers, such as social pressure (H1; Misra & Stokols, 2012), as well as internal drivers, such as the fear of missing out (H2; Przybylski et al., 2013) and Internet use habits (H3; Oulasvirta et al., 2012), will be associated with higher levels of online vigilance. As a constant preoccupation with the online context reduces the coping resources available to the individual (AUTHORS, 2017; in press), we proposed a direct effect of online vigilance on perceived stress (H4). Furthermore, as online vigilance has been linked to an increased use of online communication (AUTHORS, 2017), we expect to find a positive association between online vigilance and communication load (H5; i.e., the daily number sent and received online message via social media and messengers) as well as Internet multitasking (H6; i.e., concurrent use of the Internet and other activities). Finally, replicating the findings of previous research on digital stress (Reinecke et al, 2017), we expected that both communication load (H7) and Internet multitasking (H8) will predict stress.

Methods and Results

Hypotheses were tested using structural equation modelling (SEM) based on a stratified sample of 1,024 German Internet users (51.7% male, Mage=44.23), representative for the general population of Internet users in Germany. All constructs were measured with pre-validated scales (Table 1).

Results of the SEM analysis (Figure 1) support H1-H3 and identify social pressure, FOMO, and Internet use habits as positive predictors of online vigilance. In line with H4-H6, online vigilance was positively associated with perceived stress, communication load and Internet multitasking. Contrary to expectations, only Internet multitasking (H8) but not communication load (H7) predicted stress.


This study contributes to research on digital stress by identifying online vigilance – a constant cognitive orientation towards online communication – as a central driver of stress in the general population of Internet users. Our results demonstrate that digital stress is not primarily driven by the amount of communication load resulting from online vigilance but by potential conflicts and tensions with offline activities resulting from Internet multitasking. Overall, our findings suggest that new developed cognitive structures of Internet users (online vigilance) shape their “always on” usage patterns with significant implications for psychological health and well-being.

Always on – also during TV reception. Dimensions of Fear of Missing Out and their impact on Second Screen Use while watching TV.

Lisa Aelker

Hochschule Fresenius Köln, Germany

The evolution of digital media has led to a prevalent media use that can be called “permanently online and permanently connected” (Vorderer, 2015). That is, being online is no longer an “either-or-status” – when someone is for example either using the internet or TV – but rather a permanent condition which more or less accompanies or interrupts other activities as watching TV. However, people are not forced to focus on the internet all the time but use it to various degrees in various situations. Hence, some studies already focused on the determining variables (e.g. motives) concerning the use of second screens/online content during TV reception (e.g. Krämer, Winter, Benninghoff & Gallus, 2015). In a recent study (N.N., 2016) Fear of Missing Out (FoMO), defined as “a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent” (Przybylski, Murayama, DeHaan & Gladwell, 2013, p.1841), was identified to be a significant parameter in this regard (r=.263; p=.034). The current online survey (N=126) aimed at researching deeper into the relation between Fear of Missing Out and the use of second screen media during TV reception. Therefore, the concept was split into different dimensions: 1) the fear of missing out on relevant information about a) family, b) friends, and c) world affairs, 2) the fear of missing out on enjoyable experiences, and 3) the fear of missing out on social affiliation. These five dimensions were operationalized with three items each (Cronbach’s Alpha values ranged from 0,51 to 0,86; ø 0,7). Instead of the expected 5-factor model an exploratory factor analysis (Varimax rotation) revealed a 4-factor solution (explaining 62% of variance) due to the fact that the subscales 1b and 3 loaded on the same factor. By applying the new scale, the relation between FoMO and second screen use during TV reception can be described in more detail: interestingly, the frequency of using a second screen during TV reception correlates significantly with all subscales except for the fear of missing out on enjoyable experiences – the genuine core of FoMO by definition. These and other results as well as the overall evaluation of the new scale are to be further discussed during the conference presentation.

Krämer, N., Winter, S., Benninghoff, B. & Gallus, C. (2015). How “social” is Social TV? The influence of social motives and expected outcomes on the usage of Social TV applications. Computers in Human Behavior, 51, 255-262.

Przybylski, A. K., Murayama, K., DeHaan, C. R., Gladwell, V. (2013). Motivational, emotional, and behavioral correlates of fear of missing out. Computers in Human Behavior, 29, 1841-1848.

Vorderer, P. (2015). Der mediatisierte Lebenswandel. Permanently online, permanently connected. Publizistik, 60(3), 259-276.

Are activities on social networking sites associated with narcissism and school performance? Meta-analytic evidence

Markus Appel1,2, Caroline Marker1, Timo Gnambs3

1University of Koblenz-Landau, Germany; 2University of Würzburg, Germany; 3Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories, Bamberg, Germany

The popularity of social networking sites (SNSs) has raised concerns that the intensity of using platforms such as Facebook or Instagram might have disconcerting implications for individuals and societies. The aim of a larger project is to assess the empirical evidence on the associations between SNSs activities and psychological variables that have attracted substantial attention by researchers as well as by journalists and the general public. This presentation is focused on narcissism and school performance, fields in which primary studies provided conflicting evidence.

With respect to narcissistic tendencies, a random-effects meta-analysis including 289 effect sizes from 57 studies (total N = 25,631) is presented to assess on the association between trait narcissism and social networking behavior. The meta-analysis identified a small to moderate effect of ρ = .17 (τ = .11), 95% CI [.13, .21], for grandiose narcissism that replicated across different social networking platforms, respondent characteristics, and time. Moderator analyses revealed pronounced cultural differences with stronger associations in power distant cultures. Moreover, social networking behaviors geared toward self-presentation and the number of SNS friends exhibited stronger effects than usage durations.

With respect to school performance, we present three random-effects meta-analyses including 59 independent samples (total N = 29,337) on the association between patterns of SNS use and school grades. The meta-analyses identified small negative effects for general SNS use and for SNS use related to multitasking. In contrast, SNS use for academic purposes exhibited a small positive association. Moderator analyses included cross-cultural differences and the assessment of grades (documented vs. self-reported by the student). As the effects in all three meta-analyses on school performance were small in size, it seems that despite the proliferation of SNSs in societies around the world, social networking activities appear to be only weakly related to academic achievement.

Limitations of the meta-analytical methodology and implications for future research are discussed.

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