New paper with Inyoung Shin on “New media use and the belief in a just world: awareness of life events and the perception of fairness for self and injustice for others“. Facebook and the use of many other new media are related to awareness of major life events in the lives of friends and family. Awareness of undesirable events in the lives of strong ties fosters a lower perception of equity and justice for others, whereas an awareness of desirable experiences in the lives of strong ties is related to greater, perceived, personal justice. We discuss the implications in terms of the psychological benefits that can come from the vicarious joy and comfort one receives from other’s experiences; what we call mudita and comfort from others (MACO) (the opposite of FOMO); and support for social movements that seek to reduce injustices experienced by disadvantaged groups. We view this work as an extension of cultivation theory into the study of social media.

Abstract:

The disclosure of life events is among the most common behaviors on social media and is part of the everyday activities revealed through the use of many other new media. This paper explores the awareness of major life events through these media as they relate to a person’s belief in a just world for themselves and others. Using survey data, we find that text messaging, commenting on Facebook, and having more Facebook friends are associated with awareness of desirable events. Passive modes of communication, e.g., the use of the ‘like’ interaction on Facebook, are related to an awareness of both desirable and undesirable life events across a greater range of social ties. Awareness of undesirable events in the lives of strong ties fosters a lower perception of equity and justice for others, whereas an awareness of desirable experiences in the lives of strong ties is related to greater, perceived, personal justice. We discuss the implications of the awareness of major life events through new media in terms of the psychological benefits that can come from the vicarious joy and comfort one receives from other’s experiences; what we call mudita and comfort from others (MACO). We argue that the long-term, cumulative effects of greater awareness of undesirable life events may lend support to social movements that seek to reduce injustices experienced by disadvantaged groups.

New paper out on “How Variation in Internet Access, Digital Skills, & Media Use are Related to Rural Student Outcomes: GPA, SAT, & Educational Aspirations” with Craig Robertson, Laleah Fernandez, Inyoung Shin, and Johannes Bauer. This extends our work at the Quello Center with our partners at a dozen Michigan school districts, and Merit Network, Inc. There is a lot in this one, but the highlights include:

  • For education outcomes, the benefit of using social media, video games, etc., for building digital skills outweighs any negative influences of excessive use.
  • Gaps in access and digital skills, not a homework gap hurts rural student educational performance. Social media skills (and digital skills in general) predict higher SAT scores but not classroom grades.
  • Dropping SAT for college admissions may hurt rural students. Discrepant SAT performance allows students with digital skills to demonstrate additional potential for success in higher education.
  • Rural students who spend more time on sports receive higher grades and have higher educational aspirations than those with more digital skills (but digital skills, not sports predict SAT scores)… fixing divides in rural broadband access only part of the challenge.
  • Rural students whose Internet access improved during the COVID-19 pandemic likely experienced lower academic gains than peers who already had broadband access, due to preexisting gaps in digital skill and experience with everyday media use.

Abstract:

Some have pointed to divides in the availability of fixed home broadband Internet access as a contributor to rural students’ lower levels of educational attainment. Based on standardized exams (SAT Suite) and a survey of rural Michigan students in grades 8–11, we find that rural students with broadband home Internet access are more interested in school and leave homework incomplete less often. However, the relationship to classroom grades (GPA) is relatively trivial. Yet, we find that students who are not dependent on a cell phone for Internet access and those with higher digital skills, especially social media skills, rank considerably higher on the SAT. Rural students with broadband Internet access are able to participate in a more diverse array of online media activities, which supports building digital skills. Any negative relationship between time spent on social media, video games, other digital media and educational outcomes is outweighed by the benefit to digital skills. However, aspects of rural culture; including the emphasis on activities such as sports, as a path to postsecondary schooling and upward, social mobility; may be stunting the positive relationship between access, digital skills, and educational aspirations. Whereas extra-curricular sports have no direct relationship to SAT performance, students who spend more time on sports receive higher grades and have higher educational aspirations than those with more digital skills. We discuss the implications for rural students’ access to human capital and how the unequal relationship between digital skills and performance in the classroom and on the SAT may perpetuate inequalities.

Excited to share my new paper published in the journal Social Networks. “A restricted multiple generator approach to enumerate personal support networks: An alternative to global important matters and satisficing in web surveys“.
Yes, it’s a mouth full. In short, this paper deals with a number of methodological issues related to the use of name generators for egocentric network analysis. Suggests a new name generator approach, addresses issues with current practices on Web surveys, and argues that this new approach may reduce mode effects across Web, phone, and in-person administration of name generators.

Abstract:

Overlooked issues in the selection and presentation of name generators may lead to extreme measurement errors in Web surveys. This paper compares networks elicited from the standard “important matters” (IM) name generator, which records alter names on one or five boxes per page, with a two-generator design and an alternative approach, the R5D. The R5D consists of five name generators focused on a range of topics commonly discussed as important matters. Each generator is restricted to recording one alter. Generally accepted practices in egocentric surveys result in inaccurate measures of network size and composition. They include the use of the stand-alone IM generator and advice to present a single name box to record one alter name per page. The use of a single name box encourages satisficing. The R5D is a parsimonious alternative with stronger construct validity. It has less measurement error, provides measures of social support, and enumerates alters with less slippage in importance than other approaches.