Framing 'digital well-being' as a social good

Keywords: digital wellbeing, disconnection, non use, mobile apps, Screen Time, regulation

Abstract

This contribution argues that companies such as Apple, Facebook, and Google are increasingly incorporating features that supposedly promote “digital well-being” to forestall regulation of their platforms and services. The inclusion of these features, such as Apple’s Screen Time, frames these commercial platforms as providing a social good by promising to encourage more “intentional” or “mindful” use of social media and mobile devices. As a result, oft-critiqued platforms are increasingly adopting the language of their critics in order to frame themselves as a social good. This strategy mimics that used by radio executives in the United States in the early twentieth century, where the medium developed as a predominantly commercial enterprise. To avoid regulation, it became necessary to perpetuate the perception that commercial broadcasters were also a social good that fulfilled a public service function. Platforms today, we assert, are inadvertently or purposefully adopting a similar tactic to position themselves as leaders in a developing digital wellness market in the hopes of avoiding future governmental regulation.

Author Biographies

Alex Beattie, Victoria University Wellington

Researcher in communication and design at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

Michael S. Daubs

Senior Lecturer, Media Studies Programme, Victoria University of Wellington

Published
2020-11-23
How to Cite
Beattie, A., & Daubs, M. S. (2020). Framing ’digital well-being’ as a social good. First Monday, 25(12). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v25i12.10430