Academic journal article Trames

Motives for Internet Use and Their Relationships with Personality Traits and Socio-Demographic Factors

Academic journal article Trames

Motives for Internet Use and Their Relationships with Personality Traits and Socio-Demographic Factors

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

The increasing number of Internet users in the world has brought about a shift in research focus from a simple dichotomy between 'haves' and 'have-nots' to finer distinctions between types of Internet use, governed by user motives, as well as the predicting factors of different types of use. In this respect, two main approaches can be distinguished in the social sciences. Psychological studies have examined engagement in various online activities as related to personality traits (Amichai-Hamburger 2002, Amichai-Hamburger et al. 2002, Anolli et al. 2005, Gombor and Vas 2008, Hills and Argyle 2003, Landers and Lounsbury 2006, Orchard and Fullwood 2010, Tosun and Lajunen 2010). Research in sociology, media and communication studies, and gender studies has mostly focused on socio-demographic variables and/or individual resources and situational factors (e.g., economic, cultural and social capital, digital literacy, habitus, lifestyle, political and civic participation, and community norms) as related to different user preferences (Brandtzseg 2010, Brandtzseg et al. 2011, Dutton et al. 2009, Lievrouw 2001, Pruulmann-Vengerfeldt 2006a, Pruulmann-Vengerfeldt 2006b, Runnel et al. 2009, Shah et al. 2001, Vengerfeldt and Runnel 2004, Zillien and Hargittai 2009).

The originality of this study lies in its aim to bring these two approaches together and offer an interdisciplinary and thus a more comprehensive explanation of individual differences in Internet use. To achieve this aim, we first delineate an empirically robust and theoretically well-interpretable classification of online activities, which can be taken as indicative of the underlying motives for using the Internet. Secondly, we analyse how those motives for Internet use are predicted by personality traits as well as socio-demographic variables and other relevant factors such as the frequency of Internet use and indicators of habitus and lifestyle. The overall theoretical rationale for merging two previous research approaches is to address and discuss a more basic question: to what extent are motives for human behaviour, exemplified in our study as purposes guiding Internet use, influenced by inherent personality traits vis-a-vis social norms, roles and habits acquired in the course of socialization?

1.1. Classifications of Internet use

Over the last decade, a number of classifications of online activities, their underlying motives, as well as Internet user types have been proposed. The typologies tend to vary in terms of the applied theories, as well as the sampling and measurement techniques and, ultimately, the suggested classifications. A number of studies have taken the uses-and-gratifications approach, which explains the way people adopt and use communication media as a function of their psychological needs and the gratifications they seek (see Kim et al. 2011 for an overview). Several other studies, however, have used inductive explorative approach to categorize online activities, and therefore lack a clear theoretical insight (Horrigan 2007, Roberts et al. 2004). Differences in the proposed typologies are also evident. For instance, some researchers have drawn distinctions between the use of online social, leisure, and information services (Hamburger and Ben-Artzi 2000), or social, leisure, and academic Internet use (Landers and Lounsbury 2006), whereas others have applied technical, information exchange, and leisure motives for drawing their classifications (Swickert et al. 2002), or distinguished between ritualised and instrumental use (Papacharissi and Rubin 2000). Furthermore, motives for Internet use are often found to be culture-specific (Choi et al. 2004, Gombor and Vas 2008). It is also important to note that many of the suggested typologies have been drawn upon non-representative samples (Heim et al. 2007, Johnson and Kulpa 2007, Roberts et al. 2004), which obviously influences to what extent their findings can be generalized. …

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