The Impact of Digital Media on Daily Rhythms: Intrapersonal Diversification and Interpersonal Differentiation

Yixin Zhou, Jonathan J. H. Zhu


Digital media are popularly regarded as one of the central identifiers of postmodern life. However, systematic examinations that address how digital media and their development affect lives and contribute to social change are lacking. To address this issue, we used two national representative samples from 2000 and 2015 (comprising 5,375 and 4,134 people, respectively). We constructed a sequence of daily activity rhythms based on diary surveys and assessed the influence of computer and mobile phone accessibility and use. The results showed that (1) digital media increased intrapersonal diversification and interpersonal differentiation across the years although variations existed regarding media modalities, media accessibility and usage, and time frame; (2) computers had a stronger effect than mobile phones; and (3) actual media use time had a direct influence on the allocation of daily activities. These findings reveal a media effect on daily activity rhythms, a form of what this study calls “postmodern transformation.”


media effect, temporal rhythm, daily activities, sequence analysis, digital media, temporality

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