Four careerists strongly emphasized their efforts to be intentional in use of digital media

I’m conducting research interviews to better understand media use motivations and preferences of 18- to 29-year-old careerists. Nine interviews in and I’m observing an interesting and unanticipated pattern from the data.

Four of the nine young adults interviewed — two women and two men in different professions with various lifestyles — strongly emphasized their efforts to be intentional in their use of digital media. Their attempts to consciously exert control over the amount of time spent on digital media and how and why they use it were met with varying degrees of success. I’m calling these types of young adults “intentionals.”

Kimberly, a 28-year-old dessert chef, seems satisfied with the way she engages with print and digital media throughout the day. She said a combination of the two is important to her.

John, a 28-year-old handyman, is struggling to disengage more from digital media even though he said he has steadily reduced his music downloading and Internet surfing over the past seven months. He said previously he often stayed up late at night engaging in these types of activities. His goal is to spend more of his free time doing things he values such as shooting photography with an analog camera and reading books.

Twenty-five-year-old Dennis is “a political operative for a major statewide officeholder.” His go-to source for information is Twitter, which he monitors constantly as part of his job. He also reviews online news sources and blogs throughout the day. Dennis said he wants to detach from the intense digital media use required in his job and spend face-to-face time with friends outside work. In addition, he developed a preference for talking to his friends on the phone rather than texting them.

John's goal is to spend more of his free time doing things he values such as shooting photography with an analog camera and reading books.

Vicky, a 26-year-old who works in sales in a quality women’s clothing store, said she prefers to talk on the telephone rather than text and doesn’t like being around people who are constantly checking their cellphones. Vicky said it bothers her when her younger sister comes to visit — which is rare — and spends much of her time on her cellphone rather than being fully present. Vicky is aware of how, why and when she makes use of digital media and expressed a desire to limit the amount of time she devotes to it. Vicky prefers to use print magazines rather than online sources for updating herself on fashion trends, she said, something she feels she needs to do to succeed in her work.

A common thread among these four intentionals is their desire for control over the amount of time spent using digital media and the type of digital media used. One technique employed was narrowing go-to sources in an effort to acquire desired information as efficiently as possible. In relating to others, the intentionals said they made conscious efforts to be “fully present” and to have face-to-face interactions or to talk with friends and family. Another technique these “intentional” users adopted was to put their cellphones away when they were interacting with people one-on-one socially. I was able to observe a notable difference between their behavior and that of others interviewed thus far, who checked cellphones during the interview.

I’m trying to identify patterns in types of users reflected in the interview data. I’m also looking to find as many already published typologies of media users as possible to compare with my own emerging findings. I haven’t yet identified any typologies that include “intentionality” as a type or even as an element of a type of digital media user. But some compelling typologies I’ve rooted out thus far include:

  • John B. Horrigan’s typology of information and communication technology users outlined in the Pew Internet Report, May 2007, derived from a telephone survey representative sample of people 18 years of age and over in the United States.
  • The U.K.-based Office of Communications’ (OFCOM) 2008 quantitative and qualitatively derived research report on attitudes, behaviors and use of social networking among children and adults in the U.K.
  • Petter Bae Brandtzaeg’s article titled “Towards a unified Media-User Typology (MUT): A meta-analysis and review of the research literature on media-user typologies,” which appeared in Computers in Human Behavior, volume 26, number 5, pages 940-956. This 2010 article analyzes 22 media user typologies that have been put forth since 2000. It provides the best overview I have found of the range of theoretical approaches that have been employed in developing typologies. Survey research and a-theoretical work appears to dominate the field.

The search for the widest array of media use typologies continues, so if you know of additional ones, please contact me.

Mary Grigsby  
University fellow


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