Excessive & Compulsive Internet Use

Internet use can be a great convenience but overuse can turn into a sad and lonely state

(RxWiki News) Can too much time on the Internet lead to depression and loneliness? Is the Internet addictive? Internet use has carved out a niche of research in communication and psychology.

A recent study surveyed tech savvy Internet users to investigate problematic Internet use.

These researchers looked at the difference between excessive and compulsive Internet use, which often showed a person’s lack of ability to curb or stop spending time on the Internet.

"Talk to a therapist about compulsive Internet use."

Joseph Mazer, PhD, assistant professor of communications at Clemson University, and Andrew M. Ledbetter, PhD, assistant professor at Texas Christian University, led the investigation.

For the study, researchers recruited participants via university campus, Facebook and a professional listserv of people interested in communication and technology.

A total of 352 participants were selected, aged 18-59, 69 percent of which were undergraduate students.

Each participant answered a 31-question survey to determine thoughts and attitudes about Internet use. Questions focused on opinions about self-disclosure, social connection, apprehension/anxiety, communication/miscommunication and convenience. 

Researchers looked at problematic Internet use by separating it into excessive Internet use (EIU) and compulsive Internet use (CIU).

Convenience and communication/miscommunication were found to be at the root of EIU. Problematic emotional or psychological outcomes did not appear to result from EIU.

People with CIU felt more comfortable with online self-disclosure and social connection, which often resulted in anxiety, depression, loneliness and reduced social contact.

Authors said, “[E]xcessive users seem to have a more realistic perception of online communication as temporally convenient but sometimes limited by [a lack of nonverbal communication that can only be understood in person].”

“In other words, whereas anxiety motivates CIU, efficiency seems to motivate EIU.”

Further research is needed to determine the best methods of intervention and appropriate treatment for compulsive Internet behavior.

This study was published in October in Southern Communication Journal.

No funding information was given and no conflicts of interest were reported.

Review Date: 
October 14, 2012