How psychosocial well-being and usage amount predict inaccuracies in retrospective estimates of digital technology use


Using Apple’s Screen Time application to obtain reported actual iPhone and social media (SM) use, we examined the accuracy of retrospective estimates of usage, how inaccuracies bias associations between use and psychosocial well-being (depression, loneliness, and life satisfaction), and the degree to which inaccuracies were predicted by levels of well-being. Among a sample of 325 iPhone users, we found that (a) participants misestimated their weekly overall iPhone and SM use by 19.1 and 12.2 hours, respectively; (b) correlations between estimated use and well-being variables were consistently stronger than the correlations between reported actual use and well-being variables; and (c) the degree of inaccuracy in estimated use was associated with levels of participant well-being and amount of use. These findings suggest that retrospective estimates of digital technology use may be systematically biased by factors that are fundamental to the associations under investigation. We propose that retrospective estimates of digital technology use may be capturing the construct of perceived use rather than actual use, and discuss how the antecedents, correlates, and consequences of perceived use may be distinct from those of actual use. Implications of these findings are discussed in view of the ongoing debate surrounding the effects of digital technology use on well-being.

Mobile Media and Communication