The functions of Internet use and their social, psychological, and interpersonal consequences
Weiser, Eric B
MetadataShow full item record
The Internet and cyberspace have revolutionized the way the world works and thinks. It is difficult to underestimate the enormity of the Internet, although little is known concerning its social and psychological ramifications. The more time people spend using the Internet, the less time spent with others and engaged in social activities. However, time spent with others in social activities has long been known to be important for physical and psychological health. If America has experienced a decline in civic engagement, as some have claimed (e.g., Putnam, 1996), and if Internet use perpetuates this civic decline, then Internet use may have negative social and psychological effects. Evidence concerning the social and psychological effects of the Internet is mixed (e.g., Bargh & McKenna, 1998; Katz & Aspden, 1997; Kraut et al., 1998). It is suggested that the functions of Internet use (i.e., the primary purposes why people use the Internet) play an important role in terms of whether Internet use affects psychological well-being. However, researchers interested in the reasons underlying Internet use typically assess the general reasons for Internet use, without necessarily attempting to determine the specific reasons, or how such reasons may reflect deeply rooted psychological functions. A scale, called the Internet Attitudes Survey, was created and used in this research. Two pilot studies revealed that Internet use may be conceptualized as having a goods and information acquisition (GIA) function or a socio-affective regulation (SAR) function. The main study revealed that these two functions differentially mediate the effect that Internet use has on psychological wellbeing with GIA having a favorable effect and SAR having a negative effect. In addition, these effects were relatively consistent across two samples of respondents. Implications and directions for future research are discussed.