Many people regard the Internet as an essential part of their daily lives--to perform such tasks as gathering information, shopping, finding entertainment, and for discussions with other users (AmichaiHamburger, 2002; Amichai-Hamburger, Fine, & Goldstein, 2004). In the past decade, many researchers have investigated perceptions of computers and the Internet (e.g., Colley, 2003; Hadijevich, 2000; Liaw; 2002; Tsai, 2004). In 2000 at Stanford University their "Internet and Society" reported that more people are adopting the Internet for interpersonal communication. The average age of users of chat rooms is under 25.
Instant Messaging (IM) has become a popular mode of communication. Some people do not use it and never will, but for a rapidly growing number of people IM is a useful tool, and for some it has become a significant part of their lives. The number of IM users worldwide is growing exponentially. For instance, according to International Data Corp (IDC), the number of global IM users will reach over 500 million by 2005, consisting of over 200 million corporate and general business users, and over 300 million individuals. Family and friends can maintain long-distance relationships. IM allows users to hold simultaneous conversations without paying long distance fees (Hwang, 2005).
Lin and Tsai (1999) identified a small group (N = 61) of potential Internet dependents among Taiwanese high school students who used the Internet excessively, approximately 20 hours per week. Their applications are as follows: WWW (5.79 h/week), BBS (2.85 h/week--Bulletin Board Systems are a very popular Internet application in Taiwan)--chat rooms/IRC (3.61 h/week), FTP (2.73 h/week), Internet games/MUD (2.04 h/week), and e-mail (1.77 h/week).
An interpersonal relationship implies interaction among a few people regarding their thoughts, expectations, perceptions, and reactions (Heider, 1959). The need to build an interpersonal relationship leads to interactive behavior (Schutz, 1960) that can be classified into three categories:
1. Need for tolerance: make friends and build and maintain a harmonious relationship.
2. Need for control: a relationship while maintaining authority.
3. Need for expression of feelings: build and preserve a relationship of love and affection.
Kandell (1998) identified college students as more vulnerable to problematic Internet use than any other group. Most move away from home to a dormitory, thus allowing them to physically cut family ties if desired. Away from the guidance of their parents, students have more freedom in the use of the Internet. During this period, these students strive to develop a personal identity as well as meaningful interpersonal relationships or even intimacy. Their needs may lead them to explore the enormous social network provided by the Internet. These high school students recognized that they abused the Internet, admitting how it negatively impacted their lives, including school and parental relations, and even their health. They manifested the problematic consequences of Internet dependency similar to those found in previous literature (e.g., Brenner, 1996; Egger & Rauterberg, 1996; Young 1996), such as skipping meals, losing sleep and study time, as well as rearranging their daily routines or avoiding interpersonal interaction in order to allow more time for the Internet.
Interaction and communication among adolescents is rooted in a desire to express their needs on an equal footing. This interaction enhances their sense of belonging and provides understanding of self and others. The greater the development of interpersonal relationships, the greater the enhancement of a sense of belonging and security (Corey, 1991; Wellman, 1999). Burgoon and Hale (1987) pointed out the interpersonal interaction valence in their relationship communication studies, including immediacy and affection, deception and trust, dominance and equality, depth and similarity, and task and social orientation. …