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Excessive internet use: fascination or compulsion?

Kardefelt Winther, Daniel (2014) Excessive internet use: fascination or compulsion? PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Excessive internet use and its problematic outcomes is a growing focus of research, receiving attention from academics, journalists, health workers, policymakers and the public. However, surprisingly little has yet been accomplished in terms of understanding the causes and consequences of this phenomenon. I argue that this is due to the framing of excessive internet use as an addiction, which leads researchers to neglect people’s reasons and motivations for excessive internet use. The perspective taken in this thesis is that excessive internet use may help people to cope with difficult life situations. This explains why people keep using the internet excessively despite problematic outcomes: the overall experience is positive because worse problems are alleviated. Based on the relationship between a person’s well-being, which is the focal point of literature on excessive internet use, and the motivations for media use grounded in uses and gratifications research, this thesis proposes a combined framework to examine if excessive internet use may be explained as a coping strategy taken to excess. This question was asked in relation to three online activities: World of Warcraft; Facebook; and online poker. Each group was surveyed about their psychosocial well-being, motivations for internet use, and any problematic outcomes. Findings showed that interactions between motivations for use and psychosocial well-being were important explanatory factors for problematic outcomes. Respondents with low self-esteem or high stress experienced more problematic outcomes when gaming or gambling to escape negative feelings, while escapist use was less problematic for players with high self-esteem or low stress. This has implications for how society needs to respond to cases of excessive internet use, since such behaviour can be both helpful and harmful. Future studies may usefully move beyond theories of addiction and consider excessive internet use as a coping behaviour that has both positive and negative outcomes.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2014 Daniel Kardefelt Winther
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
Sets: Departments > Media and Communications
Supervisor: Livingstone, Sonia and Helsper, Ellen

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