About Pam Rutledge

Pamela Rutledge, PhD, is a scholar-practitioner, integrating her expertise in media psychology with 20+ years as a media producer. A member of the faculty at Fielding Graduate University since 2008, Dr. Rutledge teaches in the areas of brand psychology, audience engagement and narrative meaning. Dr. Rutledge consults with entertainment companies, such as 20th Century Fox Films and Warner Bros., on data strategies and audience narratives. Dr. Rutledge has published both academic and popular work, including a text on positive psychology and psychological appeal for fans of the Twilight Saga and resilience in the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. She has also written book chapters on meaning-making and fandom, transmedia narrative engagement, and positive media psychology. She authors “Positively Media” for Psychology Today and is also a frequent expert source on media use and popular culture for media outlets such as The NY Times, The BBC World and ABC News. She holds a PhD and an MBA.

How to Find Media Balance During Violent Conflicts


Media management can help you stay current without sacrificing well-being. KEY POINTS Violent images trigger fight or flight, decrease cognitive scrutiny, and increase persuasive impact. TikTok is a go-to source for world events putting users at risk for emotional distress and misinformation. Using media management strategies can protect your mental health. It’s hard to escape the horrors of war when violent and gruesome images flood the media. Conflicting reports make staying current difficult, increasing our sense of “need to know”—leading quickly to doomscrolling behaviors such as those we saw during COVID-19. The tendency to look and keep looking is normal. It's [...]

How to Find Media Balance During Violent Conflicts2023-10-27T13:00:10-07:00

Ghosting: How to Deal with Digital Disconnects in Dating


Just because ghosting is on the rise doesn't make it hurt less. KEY POINTS Ghosting's rise coincides with the popularity of online dating and mobile apps. Ghosting leaves people feeling abandoned, questioning their desirability, and grappling with uncertainty. Self-awareness and coping strategies can decrease careless ghosting and build resilience. There are two kinds of ghosting. Both involve disappearing after making contact, but only one comes with treats. Ghosting at Halloween means you ring the doorbell, leave a bag of treats, and then run away before anyone can see you. Ghosting online or on dating apps is simply disappearing without an explanation. No treats. [...]

Ghosting: How to Deal with Digital Disconnects in Dating2023-10-25T08:17:21-07:00

Beyoncé’s #MuteChallenge as a Mindfulness Moment


By silencing the noise, Beyoncé created a viral trend that enhanced experience. KEY POINTS The #mutechallenge, a viral moment from Beyonce’s new tour, offers a rare opportunity to practice mindfulness. The act of being silent can help draw attention to the present moment and what is going on inside the body. Teachers have taken to using the #mutechallenge in classrooms to help children focus and improve learning. The #mutechallenge is a viral trend that emerged from Beyonce’s Renaissance World Tour. Beyoncé starting a viral trend isn’t surprising—she is one of the most influential music artists. However, I was intrigued when [...]

Beyoncé’s #MuteChallenge as a Mindfulness Moment2023-10-10T12:26:38-07:00

Why Do We Care Who Taylor Swift Dates?


Parasocial relationships can increase meaning and enjoyment. KEY POINTS Taylor Swift’s level of success can attract our curiosity, even if we’re not a fan. Swifties, and other fans, feel deep emotional parasocial connections due to media’s "illusion of intimacy.” Swift-Kelce dating rumors multiply emotional stakes for fans invested in Taylor's romances. Most parasocial relationships are perfectly healthy, adding to meaning, sense of community, and enjoyment. Taylor Swift attended several recent Chiefs games, amidst rumors that she’s dating NFL star and Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. If you didn’t know this, you probably haven’t been paying attention, either to the news or to social [...]

Why Do We Care Who Taylor Swift Dates?2023-10-02T08:59:37-07:00

#GirlMath: How Social Media Trends Perpetuate Stereotypes


Jokes that infantilize women and glorify irresponsible spending aren't funny. KEY POINTS #GirlMath is a popular TikTok trend, rationalizing spending purchases with irresponsible logic. Mental accounting provides the theoretical logic for the human tendency to subjectively value money. Even in jokes, labeling women as "girls" can undermine self-esteem and perpetuate stereotypes. I don't know whether to laugh or cry when I see #GirlMath. It is one of those TikTok trends that has grown out of the popularity of "girl" hashtags (#girldinner, #hotgirlsummer, #lazygirljob). I don't know what bothers me most: the continued labeling of women as "girls," a gender-neutral cognitive bias being attributed [...]

#GirlMath: How Social Media Trends Perpetuate Stereotypes2023-09-18T03:05:33-07:00

Why Is Digital Literacy So Often Overlooked as a Solution?


Digital literacy builds protective internal strengths for every tech use.KEY POINTSParents are very concerned about media's impact on kids' mental health.Digital literacy builds protective factors for healthy media engagement.Digital literacy is often overlooked as a solution despite the psychological benefits.Whether it's AI, social media, or video games, the headlines are dire about the threats that media poses to our kids' mental health. In fact, in a 2023 Pew Research Center study, parents' main post-pandemic concern was their kids' mental health (Minkin & Horowitz, 2023), and fingers often point to media use. With so much concern over the negative impact of media on [...]

Why Is Digital Literacy So Often Overlooked as a Solution?2023-09-11T15:47:29-07:00

A Celebrity With a Stress Patch Was Big News: Do They Work?


Celebrity endorsements change product desirability but do not guarantee results. KEY POINTS Celebrity endorsements enhance perceptions about product desirability but are not evidence for efficacy. A placebo effect can impact well-being, even if an intervention can’t be “clinically proven” to work. Any tools that increase our mindfulness and self-awareness can help decrease stress. Nothing raises the visibility of a product faster than seeing it on a celebrity. When Meghan Markle was photographed wearing a NuCalm stress patch, it got a lot of attention on social media and the popular press. Many theories circulated about why Markle was wearing the patch, but aside from all [...]

A Celebrity With a Stress Patch Was Big News: Do They Work?2023-08-29T05:47:01-07:00

Why Did Influencer Kai Cenat’s Live NYC Meetup Turn Ugly?


Influencers have no experience translating online audiences into live events. KEY POINTS Young influencers don't have relevant experience understanding influence or managing fame. Gen Z and Millennials relate more to influencers than to traditional celebrities. Parasocial attachment increases an influencer's persuasiveness because they feel like a friend. The popular social media streamer Kai Cenat and fellow streamer Fanum announced to their followers that they would give away electronics, including PlayStation 5 consoles, on Friday, August 4, at 4 p.m. Thousands of fans showed up to get the prizes, filling the street, stopping traffic, and becoming increasingly unruly. Police were [...]

Why Did Influencer Kai Cenat’s Live NYC Meetup Turn Ugly?2023-08-10T04:45:31-07:00

How Social Media Turned the Titan Tragedy into Entertainment


What empathy? The Titanic, a lost sub, and wealthy explorers—it's too good a story. KEY POINTS Disasters capture attention but stories keep us coming back. The Titan incident had all the elements of a blockbuster movie, it was too much for social media to resist. Social media is attention-driven and rewards extreme content and conspiracy theories. Continued speculation perpetuates the increasingly archetypal narrative, independent of actual facts. The Titan submergible went missing on its way to take five people to see the wreckage of the Titanic. The navy reports it suffered a ‘catastrophic implosion,’ and the five passengers are [...]

How Social Media Turned the Titan Tragedy into Entertainment2023-06-26T06:41:59-07:00

Why Proposed Social Media Bans Won’t Keep Your Kids Safe


Social media bans ignore the need for digital literacy and self-regulation KEY POINTS Proposed legal bans on social media for kids are based on moral panics, not research. The preoccupation with social media use ignores the needed skills to safely navigate the digital world. Not only will the laws be difficult to enforce but verification proposals raise serious privacy issues for sensitive information. Lawmakers could help kids more by funding digital literacy programs. Politicians can't get their pens out fast enough to draft laws to regulate social media use by kids. Advertised as "child protection" laws, the proposed bans [...]

Why Proposed Social Media Bans Won’t Keep Your Kids Safe2023-05-05T03:55:09-07:00
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