Using media as a stress reducer can lead to feelings of guilt and failure

July 24, 2014, International Communication Association

It seems common practice. After a long day at work, sometimes you just want to turn on the TV or play a video game to relax, decompress. This is supposed to make you feel better. But, a recent study published in the Journal of Communication, by researchers at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany, and VU University Amsterdam, found that people who had high stress levels after work and engaged in television viewing or video game play didn't feel relaxed or recovered, but had high levels of guilt and feelings of failure.

Leonard Reinecke (Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz) and Tilo Hartmann and Allison Eden, (VU University Amsterdam) surveyed 471 participants to think about the preceding day and report how they had felt after work and what media they had used. The researchers found that people who were particularly fatigued after work or school showed a higher tendency to feel that their media use was a form of procrastination. They felt that they succumbed to their desire of using media instead of taking care of more important tasks. As a result, they had a higher risk of feeling guilty about their media use. These feelings of guilt diminished the positive effects of media use and reduced recovery and vitality after media use.

The results also suggest a paradoxical pattern between depletion and media-induced recovery: Those depleted individuals who could have benefitted the most from recovery through media use, instead experienced lower levels of recovery because they took their media use as a sign of their own self-control failure.

Prior research has shown that the use of entertaining media produces a "recovery experience", that helps us to psychologically detach from work stress and relax, but also provides mastery experience (e.g., when you beat a computer game or watch a thought-provoking movie) and a feeling of control during leisure time. As a result, people feel energized and more vital after media use and even show stronger cognitive performance thanks to media-induced recovery.

"We are beginning to better understand that media use can have beneficial effects for people's well-being, through media-induced recovery. Our present study is an important step towards a deeper understanding of this. It demonstrates that in the real life, the relationship between media use and well-being is complicated and that the use of media may conflict with other, less pleasurable but more important duties and goals in everyday life," said Reinecke. "We are starting to look at use as a cause of depletion. In times of smartphones and mobile Internet, the ubiquitous availability of content and communication often seems to be a burden and a stressor rather than a recovery resource."

Explore further: The pursuit of hopefulness in entertainment media

More information: Journal of Communication DOI: 10.1111/jcom.12107

Related Stories

The pursuit of hopefulness in entertainment media

September 23, 2013
Has a movie or TV show ever left you feeling happy or uplifted about your own life? Entertainment media provides a wealth of emotionally evocative content, but relatively little attention has been paid to the subject of media ...

Genetics linked to children viewing high amounts of violent media

February 19, 2014
The lifelong debate of nature versus nurture continues—this time in what your children watch. A recent paper published in the Journal of Communication found that a specific variation of the serotonin-transporter gene was ...

Video games can be beneficial for post-work recovery

June 17, 2014
Videogames have a had a particularly bad rap lately, not least after a UK coroner suggested a link between Call of Duty and teenage suicide. But recent evidence suggests that gaming can be good for us and, in particular, ...

'Bad' video game behavior increases players' moral sensitivity

June 27, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—New evidence suggests heinous behavior played out in a virtual environment can lead to players' increased sensitivity toward the moral codes they violated.

Recommended for you

Babies' babbling betters brains, language

January 18, 2018
Babies are adept at getting what they need - including an education. New research shows that babies organize mothers' verbal responses, which promotes more effective language instruction, and infant babbling is the key.

College branding makes beer more salient to underage students

January 18, 2018
In recent years, major beer companies have tried to capitalize on the salience of students' university affiliations, unveiling marketing campaigns and products—such as "fan cans," store displays, and billboard ads—that ...

Inherited IQ can increase in early childhood

January 18, 2018
When it comes to intelligence, environment and education matter – more than we think.

Modulating molecules: Study shows oxytocin helps the brain to modulate social signals

January 17, 2018
Between sights, sounds, smells and other senses, the brain is flooded with stimuli on a moment-to-moment basis. How can it sort through the flood of information to decide what is important and what can be relegated to the ...

Baby brains help infants figure it out before they try it out

January 17, 2018
Babies often amaze their parents when they seemingly learn new skills overnight—how to walk, for example. But their brains were probably prepping for those tasks long before their first steps occurred, according to researchers.

Reducing sessions of trauma-focused psychotherapy does not affect effectiveness

January 17, 2018
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) patients treated with as few as five sessions of trauma-focused psychotherapy find it equally effective as receiving 12 sessions.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.