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.

Biotrackers: Good For Fitness, Bad for Mental Health?


In a data-driven world, we look to biotrackers to improve our well-being. KEY POINTS Biotrackers combine sophisticated data-gathering technology with the long-standing drive for self-improvement. Data only helps if translated into useful, actionable information Biotrackers don't work for everyone but for most users, they improve accountability, motivation, and engagement Trackers are not one size fits all. Choosing the right approach to behavior change means figuring out what works best for you. Are you sporting an Apple Watch, FitBit, Oura Ring, or other smart wearables? If so, you're not alone. Many of us have been lured into the magical world [...]

Biotrackers: Good For Fitness, Bad for Mental Health?2022-02-19T22:37:34-08:00

Online Dating and Teens: Looking For Love in Digital Places


Online Dating and Teens: Looking For Love in Digital Places KEY POINTS Interest in dating, intimacy and romantic love is a normal part of adolescence Increased use of social media during COVID has turned online dating into just plain 'dating' The joys and heartbreaks of virtual and online relationships can feel every bit as real as IRL The best way to keep online dating positive and safe is to focus on building healthy relationships and problem-solving skills If your teen is interested in mantic or physical relationships, they probably are already engaged in some form of online dating.  During [...]

Online Dating and Teens: Looking For Love in Digital Places2022-02-10T18:48:28-08:00

8 Ways to Help Your Kids Keep Online Dating Safe and Positive


The rules of dating have changed. Are your kids ready? KEY POINTS Dating is a healthy part of teen development, and online dating is typical today. Having conversations early on can help keep kids safe as they date online and date offline. Parents should remain focused on healthy relationships and communication, not specific apps or devices. Valentine's Day may be around the corner. But dating and interest in romance, intimacy, and sex are normal parts of being a teen all year long. Online dating is the new normal, especially for kids locked up by COVID. While online dating has many benefits, it is not [...]

8 Ways to Help Your Kids Keep Online Dating Safe and Positive2022-02-10T18:39:10-08:00

Why We Mourn the Loss of TV Dad Bob Saget


Parasocial relationships with TV dads create emotional connection and meaning. KEY POINTS TV dads are idealized versions of the fathers we’d all love to have. A parasocial relationship describes the one-sided emotional attachment we feel to real and fictional characters. Losing a loved character is experienced as the loss of a real connection; it leaves a hole. Parasocial relationships add to media enjoyment by increasing the immediate pleasure and creating a longer-term sense of meaning. Bob Saget was among the very best of TV dads. Like James Avery, John Ritter, Alan Thicke, and Tom Bosely, he raised his TV [...]

Why We Mourn the Loss of TV Dad Bob Saget2022-01-15T20:51:31-08:00

Are Tech Gifts Bad for My Kids?


Tech gifts can introduce digital skills which are foundational to STEM. KEY POINTS Technology from iPhones to Nintendo Switch tops kids’ holiday wishlists. COVID has changed kids' expectations about digital devices—not to mention their parents'. Lots of tech toys teach digital skills, like critical thinking and collaboration. Digital skills are foundational to STEM skills and are a minimum standard for most careers. From an iPhone to Nintendo Switch, a tablet to a smartwatch, what’s on your kid’s wish list? How can you make sense out of what tech experiences are positive? How do you match technology choices with [...]

Are Tech Gifts Bad for My Kids?2021-12-13T23:39:49-08:00

The Psychology of Peloton’s Appeal: What Keeps Us Riding


Successful virtual exercise targets much more than physical fitness. KEY POINTS COVID made hybrid experiences more acceptable and even desirable. Self-determination theory is a framework for evaluating technology experience, focusing on core needs: agency, competence, and social connection. When designed well, technology can contribute to the satisfaction of these needs and enhance wellbeing. Peloton creates a virtual experience that simultaneously empowers members to achieve and increases a sense of belonging. Successful virtual exercise targets much more than physical fitness. Like many, I purchased a Peloton bike at the start of COVID. It was a leap of [...]

The Psychology of Peloton’s Appeal: What Keeps Us Riding2021-12-02T23:13:01-08:00

The Psychological Appeal of Squid Games: Why We Can’t Stop Watching


Key Points Squid Games is a survival drama and cautionary tale that examines the extremes of social power, injustice, and privilege. It is timely because it encapsulates the powerlessness, frustration, and confusion of the pandemic. In Squid Games, the lack of empathy and cruel abuse of power is more difficult to watch than the violence. Source: Antonio Guillem/Shutterstock Netflix’s Squid Games is a dystopian fiction that pits a group of desperate people against each other in deadly children’s games, lured by the salvation of a large cash prize. The main character is an initially unsympathetic gambling addict Seong Gi-hun who steals from [...]

The Psychological Appeal of Squid Games: Why We Can’t Stop Watching2021-10-11T18:06:19-07:00

How to Stop Trauma Dumping and Protect Your Mental Health


How to Stop Trauma Dumping and Protect Your Mental Health Are you a trauma dumper? Trauma dumping is a type of emotional dumping that, to quote the Urban Dictionary, results in “unloading all your emotional crap unmercifully onto one or more of your friends.” The practice has expanded from people you know to trauma dumping to total strangers. Trauma dumping can be hazardous to your friendships and mental health. Yes. The last months have been stressful and a lot of us have pent-up emotions that we’d like to air.  That’s no excuse for unloading negativity onto the unsuspecting. [...]

How to Stop Trauma Dumping and Protect Your Mental Health2021-09-27T22:25:43-07:00

What To Do When Your Friend Behaves Badly Online?


What To Do When Your Friend Behaves Badly Online? We see a lot of behaviors online.  Everybody has their own ideas about normal, but we sometimes see people we know posting online in ways that seem totally off.  It is troublesome when it's someone we know and care about. Do we look the other way or are we not being a good friend by ignoring it?  How do we distinguish between socially inappropriate and someone in mental distress? Mental distress is complex.  Behavior changes can be triggered by a range of things—many of which are situational and will pass, but [...]

What To Do When Your Friend Behaves Badly Online?2021-09-27T22:21:03-07:00

Gabby Petito: True-Crime Rubbernecking on Social Media


A true-crime case unleashes speculation and opportunism on TikTok. KEY POINTS When Influencer Gabby Petito disappeared, social media embraced the case, generating millions of views. Information takes on meaning of its own as it travels, attracting opportunists using hashtags as clickbait. There is real danger in true crime speculation that activates our survival instincts, but the appeal goes deeper than rubbernecking. The wealth of social media content on Petito generated empathy, identification, and parasocial connections, creating emotional investment. True crime is appealing.  Call it morbid curiosity, but we can't look away.  True crime speculation about the attractive young Influencer [...]

Gabby Petito: True-Crime Rubbernecking on Social Media2021-09-23T23:57:39-07:00
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