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Digital inequality in disconnection practices: voluntary nonuse during COVID-19


Nguyen, Minh Hao; Hargittai, Eszter (2023). Digital inequality in disconnection practices: voluntary nonuse during COVID-19. Journal of Communication, 73(5):494-510.

Abstract

The pervasiveness of digital media renders people constantly connected. Digital inequality theory tends to focus on how socio-digital factors link to technology access, skills, uses, and opportunities derived from such use. It is not clear, however, whether this theoretical lens applies to a time of heightened connection when privilege may also explain intended disconnection. Drawing on data from 1,551 U.S. adults surveyed during the pandemic, we find that younger age, higher education, frequent Internet use, less dependable access, and better skills are related to partaking in voluntary nonuse (e.g., having technology-free moments, switching off the Internet). As digital disconnection emerges from a place of socio-digital privilege as well as disadvantage, in a society of technology abundance, new inequalities arise around who has the freedom to use it in moderation rather than use it at all. Our study extends theoretical notions from digital inequality to the realm of voluntary digital nonuse.

Abstract

The pervasiveness of digital media renders people constantly connected. Digital inequality theory tends to focus on how socio-digital factors link to technology access, skills, uses, and opportunities derived from such use. It is not clear, however, whether this theoretical lens applies to a time of heightened connection when privilege may also explain intended disconnection. Drawing on data from 1,551 U.S. adults surveyed during the pandemic, we find that younger age, higher education, frequent Internet use, less dependable access, and better skills are related to partaking in voluntary nonuse (e.g., having technology-free moments, switching off the Internet). As digital disconnection emerges from a place of socio-digital privilege as well as disadvantage, in a society of technology abundance, new inequalities arise around who has the freedom to use it in moderation rather than use it at all. Our study extends theoretical notions from digital inequality to the realm of voluntary digital nonuse.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Department of Communication and Media Research
Dewey Decimal Classification:070 News media, journalism & publishing
Uncontrolled Keywords:digital disconnection, digital well-being, digital inequality, COVID-19
Language:English
Date:3 October 2023
Deposited On:17 Oct 2023 16:09
Last Modified:29 Feb 2024 02:50
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.
ISSN:0021-9916
OA Status:Hybrid
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1093/joc/jqad021
Project Information:
  • : FunderUniversity of Zurich and Microsoft Research
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project Title
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)