Framing 'digital well-being' as a social good
Keywords:digital wellbeing, disconnection, non use, mobile apps, Screen Time, regulation
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.
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