The Onlife in Emerging Adulthood: Experimentation, Exploration, and Change in the Digital Era

The Onlife in Emerging Adulthood: Experimentation, Exploration, and Change in the Digital Era

Martina Benvenuti (Istituto per le Tecnologie Didattiche (ITD), Italian National Research Council (CNR), Italy), Sara Giovagnoli (Department of Psychology, University of Bologna, Italy), Melanie Keep (Faculty of Health Sciences, The University of Sydney, Australia), Elvis Mazzoni (Department of Psychology, University of Bologna, Italy) and Patrizia Selleri (Department of Psychology, University of Bologna, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1063-6.ch013

Abstract

Internet revolutionized our lifestyle. New generation devices like smartphones and tablets allow us to be always connected: the web represents a significant part of our days. These epochal changes bring with them questions about the potentialities and the risks of web. This chapter introduces a research whose purpose is to investigate the Onlife during emerging adulthood divided into two groups—youngerEA (18-24) and olderEA (25-29)—considering both the problematic and the functional side of the use of the internet. Self-esteem, self-control, online and offline social support were considered as factor that influenced the internet use habits. Typology of social networks, time spent online, device used, and number of online contacts are considered. Results show significant differences between youngerEA and olderEA in the use of the web both in problematic and functional way.
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Internet Use During Emerging Adulthood: Processes Of Experimentation, Exploration, And Change

Arnett (2000) defined emerging adulthood as being between 18-29 years with a particular focus on 18-25. He argues that this is a distinct life stage where (commonly) individuals are afforded greater freedom than adolescents (for example, with fewer parental constraints) without the same level of responsibilities as adulthood (for example, parenthood or a mortgage). Arnett describes emerging adulthood as being characterized by identity exploration, instability, self-focus, feeling in-between, and possibilities.

Identity exploration extends the process started in adolescence where young people experiment with love, work, and their worldviews. During emerging adulthood, individuals work towards achieving greater confidence in, and stability of, their romantic relationships (e.g. cohabitation, marriage), employment and study (focus on careers in contrast to casual or part time work for supplementary income), and worldviews (examining or re-examining beliefs learnt from families or exposed to through university/travel to form independent thoughts).

Emerging adulthood is also considered the age of instability by Arnett (2000). He writes that as part of their process of exploration, emerging adults are often changing residences, workplaces or roles and potentially romantic relationships. This leads to great instability in their daily lives. As a result of this process of exploration and instability, emerging adulthood is also described as the age of feeling in-between. People aged in their twenties perceive the process of becoming an adult as being gradual and so feel that their transition is gradual as well. As such, they report feeling neither adolescent nor adult.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Self-Control: It is a measure of how much people control themselves and their actions.

Social Support: It is the set of information that come to a person thanks to social interactions and that transmit the individual the feeling of being loved, valued and able, as well as being part of a network from which derive mutual obligations.

Emerging Adulthood: The life stage between adolescence and adulthood. Usually between 18 years and 30 years old, where individuals are transitioning to more stable relationships, and work and home life.

Functional Internet Use: A set of actions that lead people to use the Internet for purposes that can improve their activities, facilitate goal achievement, and empower their life.

Onlife: It is the set of actions and relationships that a person performs and has when he/she has when he/she is both connected and disconnected.

Problematic Internet Use: A set of actions that lead a person to use the Internet in a way which leads to problems during its excessive use.

Self-Esteem: It is a measure of how much people perceive to be popular and successful in their social interactions.

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