The Development of Problematic Use of Online Social Networking Sites: A Theoretical Model and its Empirical Test

Project: Research

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The use of online social networking sites (SNSs), as exemplified by Facebook, has exploded in recent years to become entrenched as a part of our daily lives. For the majority of individuals, SNSs represent an incredible social platform for social connection and obtaining information. For others, however, they can lead to significant behavioral or psychological problems. Problematic use of Internet-based technologies has been identified as a national problem in several countries, where government intervention has also grown in response to battle this technology-based psychological disorder. Since it was first identified in 1996, research on problematic Internet use has grown substantially. In recent years, researchers have further characterized and investigated the subtypes of Internet-based problems, such as online sex compulsivity, Internet gambling, and online game addiction. Most recently, the formal diagnosis of "Internet Addiction” has been included by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in the appendix of the draft DSM-V for consideration. Despite a rising concern over this emerging global issue, scientific understanding of the disorder has lagged, in part because of the lack of a common definition and consistent terminology. In addition, existing studies have focused mostly on identifying dimensions and developing the measurement instruments, and understanding diagnoses, psychosocial risk factors, symptom management, and treatment strategies.Research on IS adoption and use has long been a major stream of research in the IS discipline. Most existing studies have traditionally emphasized the positive and productive values of system usage, and assumed that the use of an information system will create benefits to users. The concept of problematic use of Internet-based technologies remains new in the IS literature. Not surprisingly, there is a lack of theoretical understanding of its development. Recognizing that little theoretical and empirical attention has been given to examine this critical issue in the IS discipline, this research project aims to propose a rich and extensive theoretical model to explain the development of problematic use of SNSs through theorizing and empirically validating the factors through a longitudinal study.In this research project, we will test the research model using an online survey of active Facebook users. In addition, we will develop and validate measures for the constructs of our research model. As our dependency on technology continues to grow, this research project will present important theoretical and practical contributions. On the theoretical side, this research project represents a relatively unexplored area in the IS literature and will enrich existing studies through providing a theoretical explanation of the development of problematic use of SNSs, as well as identifying the transition from habitual use to problematic use of SNSs. We will also develop a set of new measurement instruments for this specific context. On the practical side, the results of this study will help clinicians, educators, and parents understand the processes that may lead to problematic use of SNSs. In addition, the findings will be useful to internet companies for creating a sustainable and healthy online social platform.


Project number9041825
Grant typeGRF
Effective start/end date1/01/1313/07/16