Too much or too little messaging? Situational determinants of guilt about mobile messenger usage

Halfmann, Annabell ; Meier, Adrian ; Reinecke, Leonard

Document Type: Conference presentation
Year of publication: 2020
Conference title: ICA 2020 - 70th Annual International Communication Association Conference
Location of the conference venue: Online
Date of the conference: 21.-25.05.2020
Publication language: English
Institution: School of Humanities > Medien- und Kommunikationswisseschaft (Vorderer 2010-)
Subject: 150 Psychology
Abstract: Mobile messaging offers users many advantages, but has also been associated with lowered emotional well-being, specifically, feelings of guilt. To explain guilt about too much messenger use, self-control research points to conflicts with primary goals and tasks. Conversely, research on the social norm to be available suggests that too little messenger use may also trigger guilt reactions. The current research integrates these perspectives and adds a self-determination theory lens. Our work has two aims. First, we investigate how guilty individuals feel about using versus not using messengers. Second, by considering both boundary conditions of guilt about messenger usage simultaneously, namely goal conflicts and availability norm salience, we test whether the dilemma resulting from both conditions (high goal conflict and high availability norm salience) interacts in evoking guilt. Hypotheses were tested with two preregistered studies, a vignette experiment (Study 1) and a laboratory experiment (Study 2). Results from Study 1, but not from Study 2, support the hypotheses that goal conflicts trigger guilt about using messengers and that guilt about not using messengers arises if the availability norm is salient. In both studies, using messengers elicited more guilt than not using messengers. Moreover, our findings did not indicate that the two boundary conditions interacted in influencing guilt. The research overall points to the importance of inter- and intrapersonal norms when studying effects of mobile use on emotional well-being.

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