Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Document Type

Master's Thesis


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Matthew W. Wilson


In the space-times of the COVID-19 global health crisis, how have our relationships with smartphones changed? How do popular discourses designate mundane engagements with digital technologies as healthy or unhealthy, and how are these notions of wellness practiced? This thesis draws upon an online survey of smartphone users residing in Kentucky, and a review of marketing, journalistic, and academic literature to establish current understandings of ‘digital well-being’. The paper then analyzes interviews with Kentucky smartphone users who were asked to track their screen time for a one-week period. This project reveals normative conceptions of well-being and the role of smartphone and screen time metrics in producing ideas of digital wellness. The thesis draws upon health geographies, disability studies, media studies, and STS to argue that the common heuristics of digital wellness are insufficient to either understand or improve subjective well-being, and that a relational and ecological analysis of ‘digital well-being’ allows us to re-evaluate normative prescriptions of care. Mobilizing theories of attention and neoliberal biopolitics, the paper connects normative notions of attentiveness and wellness to demonstrate a specific assemblage of ‘digital well-being,’ and theorizes distraction as a set of ambivalent, unruly practices which might disrupt it.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

This study was supported by the University of Kentucky Department of Geography's Barnhardt Withington Block Research Funds (June-August 2020).