Author Archives: Matthew Pittman

About Matthew Pittman

A Media Studies PhD student at the University of Oregon

when binge-watching becomes cringe-watching

I just published an article in Convergence with Dr. Emil Steiner on binge-watching, which you can read here. We want to encourage everyone to move away from binge-watching as a universal term that can describe both positive viewing marathons (which we call FEAST watching) and negative ones (which we call cringe watching, because the next day you cringe when you tell your friend you accidentally blasted through 2 seasons of Selling Sunset). The factors that determine what kind of experience you have are:

P is for planned. Did you plan ahead? Have you been looking forward to watching this show all week? The more you plan ahead, the more likely you are to enjoy the experience (as opposed to regretting it).

S is for social. Are you watching with friends? Did you stream with a roommate? Watching with other people also increases the likelihood of positive outcomes.

A is for attention. Did you actually pay attention? Particularly for prestige-type, quality shows, you regret the streaming experience far less if you actually pay attention. On the other hand, if you ARE watching Selling Sunset (or other reality TV, or shows you have already seen), then you might be OK having it on in the background while you cook dinner or fold laundry.

So remember this PSA: Planning ahead, Social viewing (even if it is through an app like Scener), and paying Attention (if it’s a good show) are more likely to make you enjoy your viewing experiences and not have them stress you out!

Accountability is good

In an article I just published in the Journal of Consumer Marketing (read it here or email me for a copy) I found that with a variety of prosocial messages (get a flu shot, buy a sunscreen that is less harmful to the environment, eat less meat one day per week), people respond better—and are more open to taking the positive action—if the message is framed optimally.

That is when they are alone, they resonate more with a message that touts benefits to the individual (see first ad below). However, when they think they are going to have to talk or justify their answers to other people, they resonate more with an ad that touts global benefits (see second ad below).

Humans are very social creatures and I’m fascinated with how the presence or absence of others (even online, and even just thinking about others) can influence our decision making.

Social Media and Intimacy

Really proud of a paper that just came out with Brandon Reich on intimacy appeals on social media in Journal of Consumer Psychology. You can see it here. We showed that processing fluency is the reason why intimate appeals perform better on social media platforms which people perceive to be intimate. For example, which one of these two would do better on Pinterest:

If you said the “self” one, congratulations. Though highly visual like Snapchat and Instagram, Pinterest is less intimate (which we generalize as interpersonal closeness), so a less intimate appeal is a little easier for your brain to process. It was based on a perceptual map we did as a pilot study:

It’s fun but also challenging to try and understand the differences between social media as different platforms evolve in relation to one another.

Authenticity for Surf Brands

Brand Authenticity is huge, and surf culture has traditionally rejected most attempts at regulation or corporate influence that were perceived as inauthentic. I recently put together some research for a client who was pitching Vans for help funding an independent surf contest. Here is a summary:

Learning from failure

It’s always a bummer when an experiment fails to reject the hull hypothesis. Fortunately I have pretty thick skin. Before my colleague and I eventually found the right stimuli we created plenty of wrong stuff. Feeling especially clever one day, I thought I would prove an interaction (with just the right framing conditions) using nearly identical manipulations:






I thought the presence of two sets of hands (instead of one) would be enough to induce people to think about their relationship with others. Whoops, I was wrong. But being wrong can help steer you toward what is right. Once the full study is published I’ll post the rest of the failed stimuli here…. I think research should be honest, and that it can be enlightening even (and especially) when it stumbles at first. -insert Edison quote on 10000 ways a lightbulb doesn’t work here-

Oxford Internet Institute

2016-07-04 15.25.13I’m halfway through a two-week Summer Doctoral Programme at the Oxford Internet Institute. With 4 to 5 seminars/lectures each day on research findings, methods instruction, and project proposals, it has been equal parts exhilarating and exhausting. Oxford University has such a rich intellectual history and the people at the OII are shaping how researchers and policy makers worldwide are helping us all understand life our increasingly digital milieu.

Track the goings-on with OII SDP on Twitter

Is there any difference between Creating and Consuming on Social Media?


In one of my first journal articles, which can be found here, I explored the difference (in terms of self-reported loneliness) on CREATING social media (commenting, adding a new post, replying to someone, etc.) and CONSUMING social media (reading, browsing, scrolling, liking). I found no difference between the two, because BOTH were associated with decreased loneliness. This is congruent with other part of this study that found an increase in affinity for (and use of) social media was also associated with less loneliness.

Again, there are causality questions: are social media MAKING people less lonely, or are less lonely people just more likely to use social media more often, perhaps since they have more social connections? This is part of what I’ll be investigating with my dissertation, which draws heavily upon Media Multiplexity Theory (like this article). Perhaps, as the above image indicates, there are relevant differences in the specific platforms or devices people use for creating and consuming?

Social Media & Loneliness article in Computers in Human Behavior

That’s the gist of the research Brandon Reich and I did.


In terms of loneliness, Instagram and Snapchat (image-based platforms) offer more social presence than Twitter and Yik Yak (text-based platforms). So Instagram and Snapchat decrease loneliness and increase happiness and satisfaction with life.

For those of us that are visually-inclined, here are some data (full article is here, or email me):

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Below are density visualizations of responses participants gave when asked why they used image platforms versus text platforms. What differences can you spot between the two?

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