On 20 March at 17:00 Nino Gugushvili will defend her doctoral thesis “Digital communication technologies and mental health: an interplay between usage types and user characteristics” for obtaining a double degree of Doctor at the Maastricht University and Doctor of Philosophy (in Psychology) at the University of Tartu.
Associate Professor Philippe Verduyn, Maastricht University (the Netherlands)
Professor Robert A.C. Ruiter, Maastricht University (the Netherlands)
Associate Professor Karin Täht, University of Tartu
The rise of smartphones and social networking sites (SNS) has been accompanied by concerns inside and outside academia that these digital communication technologies negatively influence mental health. For this reason, much work has been done in the past two decades to understand how these digital communication technologies impact mental health. Past research predominantly focused on the amount of time people spend using smartphones and SNS. This yielded mixed findings and meta-analyses revealed that, on average, the effect of smartphone and SNS usage on mental health is negative but small. However, focusing on overall usage time does not take into account (1) usage types, (2) user characteristics, and (3) the distinction between non-problematic and problematic usage of digital communication technologies, and how the interplay between these three aspects impacts mental health. The present dissertation addresses these three key limitations and enhances our understanding of this pressing matter. First, this dissertation shows that different usage types of SNS (e.g., active versus passive) and smartphones (e.g., social versus non-social) are differentially related to mental health. Second, it demonstrates that these relationships differ systematically across users and identifies vulnerability factors in these relationships (e.g., neuroticism). Third, this dissertation also clarifies the complex direct and indirect relationships between these vulnerability factors, problematic usage of digital communication technologies, and mental health outcomes. Overall, this dissertation demonstrates that the impact of digital communication technologies on mental health is complex and depends on an interaction between usage types and user characteristics.
The defence will be held in Maastricht (Minderbroedersberg 4-6, Maastricht) at 16:00 (local time in the Netherlands) and can be followed online at Phd-defence.maastrichtuniversity.nl.