Can Internet usage result in unfavorable consequences, including loneliness and depression? This is a common question among online researchers, according to Joseph Mazer, assistant professor from the Department of Communication Studies at Clemson University.

Research has claimed that different motivating factors to surf online can result in adverse outcomes, because the Internet can end up being overwhelmingly compelling.

Compulsive Internet use (CIU) is a person’s incapability to reduce their time spent online, or to stop all together. Excessive Internet use refers to the extent of which individuals believe that the time spent surfing the web is not as much as it really is because they go as far as losing track of time due to their Internet behavior.

The report states that when a person cannot control their time spent online, they may be faced with loneliness, depression, and inadequate time spent talking to other people in person, not just online.

The study, conducted by Mazer and his colleague Andrew M. Ledbetter, from Texas Christian University, was published today in Southern Communication Journal.

The trial examines how certain online attitudes toward communication, including how apt a person is to disclose personal information online, how their anxiety levels fluctuate because of the Internet, and their social connection habits, influence their Internet usage as a whole, as well as their well-being.

Researchers discovered that when an individual was more inclined to disclose personal information on the Internet, and when they were more involved with social connection, they were more likely to be compulsive online users.

When a person lacks in face-to-face communication, the experts determined that they are strongly pulled toward social communication, which may result in the development of CIU.

Previous studies have claimed that when an individual experiences social anxiety, they may feel more comfortable talking to others online, rather than in person, which compels them to seek communication on the Internet.

A 2010 study said that teens who use the internet pathologically seem to be more likely to develop depression than adolescents who use it normally.

These claims are somewhat challenged by Mazer and Ledbetter’s findings, suggesting that some adjustments regarding their theoretical image of the compulsive user may be needed. Prior trials have deemed communication via the Internet as a harmless place to communicate, without feeling anxious. However, they claim that chronic users experience anxiety when talking online as well.

People who suffer from social anxiety are pulled toward the Internet, which results in compulsive online use, however, it does not seem to promote excessive use.

The authors say that people who use the Internet excessively are more in touch with the reality of communicating online, viewing it as a convenient method of contact, but not always ideal due to the lack of face-to-face conversations. Basically, Mazer and Ledbetter believe that anxiety promotes CIU, whereas efficiency seems to stimulate EIU.

CIU, according to the team, results in poor well-being, but EIU does not. Social networking websites are now a go-to method for many people, mostly young people, to stay in contact with one another. These sites are piquing researchers’ interest in personality traits which might impact how often and how extreme Internet use is among certain people.

Written by Christine Kearney