Media Multitasking 1 Running Head: Multitasking, Depression, and Anxiety [MANUSCRIPT TO APPEAR IN CYBERPSYCHOLOGY, BEHAVIOR, AND SOCIAL NETWORKING] [PLEASE DO NOT CITE WITHOUT PERMISSION] Media Multitasking is Associated with Symptoms of Depression and Social Anxiety

Abstract

We investigated whether multitasking with media was a unique predictor of depression and social anxiety symptoms. Participants (N=318) completed measures of their media use, personality characteristics, depression, and social anxiety. Regression analyses revealed that increased media multitasking was associated with higher depression and social anxiety symptoms, even after controlling for overall media use and the personality traits of neuroticism and extraversion. The unique association between media multitasking and these measures of psychosocial dysfunction suggest that the growing trend of multitasking with media may represent a unique risk factor for mental health problems related to mood and anxiety. Further, the results strongly suggest that future research investigating the impact of media use on mental health needs to consider the role that multitasking with media plays in the relationship. Media Multitasking 3 The recent dramatic increase in media use has been accompanied by a rising concern that interactions with media may be replacing face-to-face interactions , resulting in lower quality social interactions 3, 4 and impaired psychosocial functioning 5, . Consistent with these concerns, a number of early studies reported associations between heavy media use and mental health problems 7, . More recent research has suggested that the relationship between media use and psychosocial functioning is more complex and nuanced 9, . Specifically, it has been suggested that this relationship may depend on the type of media being used , the purpose for which it is being used 12, , and the individual personality characteristics of the user . Although this more nuanced approach acknowledges that “what” people are doing with media has rapidly changed, it generally ignores that “how” people interact with media has also undergone a dramatic shift. Specifically, there has been a tremendous increase in the amount of time that people spend multitasking with media (simultaneously accessing two or more forms of media). Indeed, while overall media use among America’s youth increased by 20% over the past decade, the amount of time spent multitasking with media (simultaneously interacting with more than one form of media) increased by over 119% over the same time period . This dramatic shift in how people engage with media may be important to understanding the relationship between media use and mental health. Recent reports suggest that media multitasking may be uniquely associated with deficits in basic cognitive processes such as the ability to successfully filter out irrelevant information and ignore distraction . Further, this type of poor attentional control has been suggested to maintain, and perhaps cause, depression 18 and anxiety 19 . The finding that multitasking with media may be associated with poor attentional control coupled with the findings that attentional control is related to psychosocial functioning, begs the question of whether multitasking with media may be a unique risk factor for poor mental health. Media Multitasking 4 Here we indexed participants’ overall media usage and media multitasking to investigate the extent to which these aspects of media use are associated with depression and/or social anxiety. We targeted these disorders because they are among the most common mental disorders 20 and both have been associated with both media usage 5, 21 and attentional control 18, . We were particularly interested in the possibility that media multitasking might represent a specific risk factor for psychosocial dysfunction, independent of both dispositional risk factors (i.e., personality traits) and overall media use. Thus, prior to evaluating the relationship between media multitasking and psychological wellbeing, we controlled for both overall media use and the well-known associations between the traits of neuroticism and extraversion and mood and anxiety disorders .

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@inproceedings{Becker2012MediaM1, title={Media Multitasking 1 Running Head: Multitasking, Depression, and Anxiety [MANUSCRIPT TO APPEAR IN CYBERPSYCHOLOGY, BEHAVIOR, AND SOCIAL NETWORKING] [PLEASE DO NOT CITE WITHOUT PERMISSION] Media Multitasking is Associated with Symptoms of Depression and Social Anxiety}, author={Mark W. Becker and Reem Alzahabi and Christopher J. Hopwood}, year={2012} }