Seeking safety on the internet: Relationship between social anxiety and problematic internet use

Bianca W. Lee, Lexine A. Stapinski*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    232 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    As internet use becomes increasingly integral to modern life, the hazards of excessive use are also becoming apparent. Prior research suggests that socially anxious individuals are particularly susceptible to problematic internet use. This vulnerability may relate to the perception of online communication as a safer means of interacting, due to greater control over self-presentation, decreased risk of negative evaluation, and improved relationship quality. To investigate these hypotheses, a general sample of 338 completed an online survey. Social anxiety was confirmed as a significant predictor of problematic internet use when controlling for depression and general anxiety. Social anxiety was associated with perceptions of greater control and decreased risk of negative evaluation when communicating online, however perceived relationship quality did not differ. Negative expectations during face-to-face interactions partially accounted for the relationship between social anxiety and problematic internet use. There was also preliminary evidence that preference for online communication exacerbates face-to-face avoidance.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)197-205
    Number of pages9
    JournalJournal of Anxiety Disorders
    Volume26
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2012

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