Impact of Internet Addiction on Social Skills

The world continues to progress all the time with the rapid development of new technologies. Inventions like telephone, television, computers, and Internet being one of the most recent in a series of technological developments have proven that people are no longer limited by geographical boundaries. Almost everyone will agree that Internet is the largest and most flexible source of information in the world today. It is widely used by the business world for conducting their daily work or research and by individuals for communication, entertainment, learning and relaxing. However, apart from the advantages there are some disadvantages of the excessive use. Internet has been responsible for decreased family time, relationship problems, lower productivity in employment, continuation of false information and the increasing of psychological problems (Beard, 2005). The development of Internet is increasing worldwide and the excessive use leads to Internet addiction that became a common problem nowadays.

The nature of the term addiction is difficult to define. Addiction has been referred as an uncontrollable compulsive behavior that despite of the negative consequences it is a repeated behavior. This behavior includes using more of the substances than intended; having unsuccessful attempts to stop, and experiencing problems in their social and work environment (Kring, Johnson, Davison, & Neale, 2010).

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Internet addiction disorder was first seen in the U.S press in 1995, in an article that was published in New York Times with the title “The Lure and Addiction of Life On lineA». The author of the article, O’ Neill, stated that health professionals related excessive Internet use to obsessive shopping, exercise, and gambling (Chack & Leung, 2004).

Goldberg (1996) presented the first definition for Internet addiction, describing it as a behavioral addiction that took the criteria from substance dependence from the DSM-IV.

Griffiths (2000) expanded the definition by stating that technological addictions are a subset of behavioral addictions that include six components (salience, mood modification, tolerance, withdrawal, conflict and relapse). Also Internet addiction might be caused by many aspects of internet use like distant communication, the fact that there is no face to face contact, and other online activities like chat rooms (Griffiths, 2000). A second definition that was called Problematic Internet Use (PIU) took criteria from DSM-IV and was associated with pathological gambling (Young, 1996). The author stated that in order for a person to be addicted he/she has to meet five of the eight criteria. Some of these criteria are, obsession with internet, environmental problems, withdrawal when reducing internet etc. Also according to Young, Problematic Internet Use could be more related to impulse control disorder that substance dependence. The problem that arises out of these two definitions is that they neither exclude co-morbidity as an important factor nor determine whether the time spent on the internet is related to their normal work or to a pathological addiction. Both defitions support a pathological etiology that has no theoretical base (Hall & Parsons, 2001).

By extending the definition of Young, Davis (2001) suggests that problematic internet can be regarded as Specific Pathological Internet Use and Generalized Pathological Internet Use. The first is using the internet to increase an addiction that has occurred before (gambling), while the second is about the general use of internet (searching, chatting). Another definition that was presented for internet addiction was named Internet Behavior Dependence. This definition suggests that excessive Internet use can cause problems to cognitive, behavioural, and emotional functioning in a generally healthy person. The dependence that a person has on internet can been seen by the following: deficient in satisfaction with all areas in his life, like school, work or home, use of internet with less pleasure, feels worry when not using, failure in controlling the use regardless of all the physical, psychological and social problems. No matter how someone call it, Internet- related disorders are arising as a serious problem for which people need understanding, help and change.

The internet because of its rapid spread is reachable nowadays by almost everyone and especially college students. They tend to be more vulnerable than others because of the developmental stressors, like social relationships, and because internet can be easily accessed. Many students use it nowadays for many purposes, like preparing course works, search information, communicate, and entertain those selves (Ceyhan, 2008). Also online relationships differ from “real relationshipsA». Through internet anonymity is provided and anxiety is reduced because there are no face to face interactions. The self- presentation of a person in an online activity may prevent him from being judged for his appearance or personality style (Kandell, 1998). Therefore students are more likely to develop problems with internet than others. Many studies have been conducted using DSM- based criteria and showed higher rates in internet use among college students than in general population (Morahan- Martin & Schumacher, 1999; Yang, 2001). In the literature there is a great number of studies showing that Internet addiction has been related to many variables apart from social skills such as gender and internet expertise (Morahan-Martin & Schumacher, 1997), age and grade level (Johansson, 2004), online experiences and the amount of time spent online (Morahan- Martin, 1999), depression, with increased levels of depression being associates with internet addiction (Young, Rogers, 1998), and impulse control disorder (Shapira, 2003).

Social skills are a fundamental factor in the development of the relationships.

They include all the behaviours that a person should have in his/her interactions and communication with other people (Teodoro, 2005). Caplan (2002) developed a theory imploring deficient social skills. The author claimed that people who are depressive and lonely tend to have a negative view towards their social skills. Another explanation can be that people who tend to be low in social skills are attracted by some special features of online communication. These features allow the person to adopt another self-presentation that cannot be developed through face to face interaction. Through this, a person may exaggerate and present himself different than he is in real life (Caplan, 2002). Thus, for some people Internet is a place much easier and safe because of its anonymity and because it requires less interpersonal communication. It is a place less stressful where they can control their social skills better than having a face to face interaction (Shaw & Black, 2008).

There have not been conducted a lot of studies until now that measure internet addiction and social skills in college students. Most of the studies focused on excessive internet use and how it affects the development of social skills in children and adolescents (Harman, Hansen, Cochran, & Lindsey, 2005). The research that has been conducted focused in some specific aspects of social skills like shyness, loneliness, social adjustment. There is a contradiction in the literature referring to these specific aspects of social skills and internet addiction. Engelberg (2004) in his study about internet use, social skills and social adjustment found out that individuals who use excessively internet tend to be lonelier and have problems in their social adjustment in work and in their spare time. On the other hand, another research found out that by talking online in chat rooms, loneliness is reduced and social support is increased (Waestlund, Norlander, & Archer, 2001). Also another study conducted by Morahan-Martin (2003) found out that lonely people tend to use internet for emotional support and that their social behaviour is increased by making online friends. In a study it was shown that shyness and locus of control were associated with internet addiction. It was found that persons scored higher levels of internet addiction tend to be shier and indicating more difficulties in their social life. (Chack & Leung, 2004). Most of the studies that have been conducted measured some specific aspects of social skills that are most of them loneliness, shyness and social adjustment and social comfort. There is a contradiction in the studies referring to loneliness and social comfort, with studies indicating different results (Engelberg, 2004; Waestlund et al., 2001). Due to this contradiction further research should be conducted to measure whether these aspects of social skills are related in a negative or in a positive way with the use of internet. The purpose of this study is to investigate the relationship between compulsive internet use and four dimensions of social skills that are loneliness/depression, impulse control, social comfort and distraction.

Methods

Participants

An approximately number of 70 undergraduate college students is going to participate in the current study. Their age will range from 18 to 35 years old. The study will be conducted in an English University in northern Greece and students will be recruited from different departments, the psychology, computer and business department. The measuring tools will be given in English since they know and understand the language. Also participants will not be from the same ethnicity but from different countries like Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Albania, Serbia and Fyrom.

Measures

Online Cognition Scale (Davis, Flett, & Besser, 2002). The OCS is a multidimensional questionnaire that was designed to measure Problematic Internet Use. It is consisted of 36-items that cover four subscales, six items measure loneliness/ depression, ten items measure diminished impulse control, distraction is measured by seven items and social comfort by thirteen items. Respondents will rate in a seven-point Likert scale with answers ranging from 1- strongly disagree, 4- neither agree/ nor disagree to -7 strongly agree. Students will respond to statements such as: “I feel safest when I am on the internet”; “I use the Internet more than I ought to”; I am less lonely when I am online” and “I often use the Internet to avoid doing unpleasant things”. In order to avoid order effects the items of the online cognition scale were presented in a random order. The author in order to establish the validity of the Online Cognition Scale investigated the association between various cognitive and behavioural variables and the OCS dimensions of problematic internet use. Item-total correlations were highly significant, ranging from 0.47- 0.77 for social comfort, 0.49- 0.81 for loneliness/depression, 0.50-0.76 for diminished impulse control, and 0.55-0.80 for distraction.

Compulsive Internet Use Scale (Meerkerk, Eijnden, Vermulst, & Garretsen, 2009). The CIUS was designed to assess the severity of compulsive Internet use. It includes 14 items and participants will respond in a five-point scale: 0, never; 1, seldom; 2, sometimes; 3, often; 4, very often. The questions included in the scale are like: “How often do you think about the Internet, even not online”; “How often do you go on the Internet when you are feeling down”. The author in order to test the validity of the test used another test the online cognition scale. Pearson correlations were high and significant between CIUS and OCS with p<0.001.

Procedure

The sample will be obtained by college students randomly during class or break.

Participants are going to fill in the three questionnaires individually with all the useful instructions provided. They will have the chance to fill them right away or hand them over later to secretary. Also with the questionnaires they will receive a consent form that have to sign in order to show that they agree to participate in the study. Participants will be encouraged to answer as honest as they can, but someone can be never sure about the answers and if someone will feel offended or upset by a question. Participants will have the right to withdraw anytime they do not want to continue for any reason, without receiving any penalty. Confidentiality and anonymity were provided and explained that the study is only for research. Also, the instructor will be there ready to answer any question in case of any doubt.

Design

The design of the study is a correlation design that will measure the two variables, Internet addiction and the level of social skills.

Proposed Analysis

Pearson correlation will be conducted for the data analysis that will investigate the correlation between the severity of compulsive internet use and the level of social skills.

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