Internet Use and Psychological Well-Being

Internet Use and Psychological Well-Being

Chiungjung Huang (National Changhua University of Education, Taiwan)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0315-8.ch026
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Abstract

The direction of the correlation between Internet use and psychological well-being is debatable. The displacement hypothesis indicates the correlation is negative, as Internet use for communication replaces face-to face-interaction. Conversely, the augmentation hypothesis suggests that the correlation is positive because Internet use for communication complements existing social interaction. While previous empirical findings about the relationship between Internet use and psychological well-being have been diverse, two previous meta-analyses and the present meta-analysis about the use of social networking sites and psychological well-being supported neither position, and found no relationship between Internet use and psychological well-being. Investigation of causal predominance between Internet use and psychological well-being, increased attention to measurement problems of social networking site use and older adults, and consideration of effects of indicators and moderators should be addressed in future research.
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Overview

Whether the effect of Internet use on psychological well-being is beneficial or detrimental is debatable. To address this issue, Kraut et al. (1998) examined the influence of Internet use on psychological well-being for a sample of 169 first-time Internet users and found that Internet use negatively affected psychological well-being. The Internet paradox refers to the positive effects of heavy Internet use on communication. Since the publication of the Internet paradox, further research has been replicated. For example, Kraut et al. (2002) reported that the negative effects of Internet use for first-time Internet users described in their original research dissipated during a 3-year follow-up study. Kraut et al. (2002) also investigated 406 new computer and television purchasers via a longitudinal survey between 1998 and 1999, and reported that participants generally displayed positive effects of Internet use on psychological well-being. However, better psychological well-being was associated with individuals that had adequate social support; while worse outcomes were associated with those without such support. As Kraut et al. (1998) sampled first-time users, the sample was more likely to include individuals with low Internet self-efficacy, who in turn were likely to encounter difficulties in using the Internet that could trigger depression. LaRose et al. (2001) indicated that Internet self-efficacy mediated the relationship between Internet use and psychological well-being. To test this possibility, they sampled 171 undergraduate students and found a low correlation between Internet use and depression (r = -.02) and mediation effect of Internet self-efficacy was not supported. Wästlund et al. (2001) tested the Internet paradox in different national settings using 500 Swedish students. Their study reached two main conclusions. First, younger individuals tend to use the Internet more heavily and experience lower psychological well-being than older people. Second, no connection exists between Internet use and psychological well-being.

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