The Dark Side of Using Online Social Networks: A Review of Individuals' Negative Experiences

The Dark Side of Using Online Social Networks: A Review of Individuals' Negative Experiences

Layla Boroon (University of Technology Sydney, Australia), Babak Abedin (Macquarie University, Australia) and Eila Erfani (University of Technology Sydney, Australia)
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/JGIM.20211101.oa34
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Abstract

Research on online social networks (OSNs) has focused overwhelmingly on their benefits and potential, with their negative effects overlooked. This study builds on the limited existing work on the so-called ‘dark side’ of using OSNs. The authors conducted a systematic review of selected databases and identified 46 negative effects of using OSNs from the users’ perspective, which is a rich spectrum of users’ negative experiences. This article then proposed nomenclature and taxonomy for the dark side of using OSNs by grouping these negative effects into six themes: cost of social exchange, cyberbullying, low performance, annoying content, privacy concerns and security threats. This study then conducted structured interviews with experts to confirm the sense-making and validity of the proposed taxonomy. This study discusses the confirmed taxonomy and outlines directions for future research.
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Introduction

The dark side of information technology (IT), specifically online social networks (OSNs), is important for information systems (IS) research and has become a more salient issue in recent years (Delpechitre et al., 2019; Polites et al., 2018; Turel et al., 2018). The dark side of IT use has been described as the negative effects of IT use on individuals, such as controversies, risks and other adverse consequences (Silic & Back, 2016). However, there is generally poor theoretical understanding of the dark side of OSN use (Fox & Moreland, 2015). Accordingly, developing and introducing a taxonomy of the dark side of OSNs which can generate new insights such as advancing the theoretical understanding of the dark side of OSNs is important for IS research. OSNs are networked communication platforms in which users can create profiles and content, establish connections, develop audio and video interactions with their connections, and exchange user-generated content (Berger et al., 2014; Ellison & Boyd, 2013; Erfani et al., 2016). Some scholars argue that using OSNs can have both positive and negative socio-psychological effects, and that these effects need to be well understood by scholars, practitioners and users (Mäntymäki & Islam, 2016). Exploring the negative effects and understanding the dark side of using OSNs is important, because over 3.6 billion people are OSN users (Statista, 2019), and their wellbeing can be threatened by the negative effects of OSN use (Mäntymäki & Islam, 2016). Most of the extant literature focuses on the positive aspects (Erfani et al., 2016; Poblet et al., 2018) while little research attention has been paid to the negative effects of using OSNs (Berger et al., 2014; Cao et al., 2015). The few researchers who have examined the dark side of using OSNs report negative effects on individuals such as inappropriate, annoying or obscene content, overload of social responsibility, social pressure (Fox & Moreland, 2015), stress (D'Arcy et al., 2014; Fox & Moreland, 2015), jealousy (Fox & Moreland, 2015; Sánchez et al., 2015), depression and panic (Yan et al., 2016), breach of privacy (Liu et al., 2016; Shiue et al., 2010), addictions, and reduced quality of life (D'Arcy et al., 2014). Nevertheless, they do not offer a comprehensive view of the dark side of OSNs and the existing set of negative effects of OSNs on users is incomplete. Hence, the main purpose of this study is to provide a comprehensive framework for the dark side of OSN use.

The research presented here aims to determine what is already known about the negative effects of OSN use on individuals, by systematically exploring and synthesizing the research evidence on the negative effects of using OSNs from the user perspective, categorizing the effects into distinct groups, and developing and validating a taxonomy to represent and conceptualize the dark side of OSN use. This is then used to propose an agenda for future studies on the dark side of OSNs. The proposed taxonomy of negative effects of using OSNs aggregates the negative effects of using OSNs in the existing literature, giving a structured view of the dark side of using OSNs.

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