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Communication and «The Good Life»


Edited By Hua Wang

What is a «good life» and how can it be achieved? In this volume, communication scholars and media experts explore these fundamental questions about human existence and aspiration in terms of what a «good life» might look like in a contemporary, mediatized society. While in many ways a mediatized society brings us closer to some version of the «good life», it also leads us away from it. The affordances of new technologies seem to have shifted, for many, from an opportunity to an obligation. Rather than choosing when and where to be connected to these larger networks of information and acquaintances, we feel we must be permanently available, thus losing the luxury of controlling our time and attention.
This volume illuminates the complexity of our modern era, exploring how society can leverage exciting new opportunities whilst recognizing the complex challenges we face in a time of constant change. It helps us understand how we have come to this point and where we may be going so that we may study the opportunities and the dangers, the chances and the risks, that digital media pose in our quest for some version of «the good life».
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Chapter Seven: Tuning in versus Zoning out: The Role of Ego Depletion in Selective Exposure to Challenging Media


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Tuning in versus Zoning out

The Role of Ego Depletion in Selective Exposure to Challenging Media



Increasingly, people live in an “option-rich” media environment that provides a plethora of entertainment and information opportunities (Vorderer & Kohring, 2013, p. 188). While these developments have considerably expanded our opportunities for relaxation, personal growth, and self-actualization via media, they also offer individuals the chance to tune out, disengage, and opt for “guilty pleasures” that address short-term hedonic needs versus long-term personal goals (Panek, 2014). The current study examines specific determinants of media choice, which may lead to media use that either challenges or does not challenge the viewer.

We define challenge in terms of the extent to which media require self-regulatory resources. Our rationale is simple: If users have already exhausted their existing self-control resources, they may be less inclined to choose and process media content that requires self-control to process, versus content that does not draw upon their already depleted resources. Over time, these types of media choices may lead to a pattern of hedonically motivated media consumption, instead of that which challenges, engages, or expands the horizon of the user.

Considering media challenge in terms of self-regulatory resources is not without precedent. Hartmann (2013) and Bartsch and Hartmann (2015) have both recently attempted to explain the role of...

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