Academic journal article International Journal of Business and Information

Problematic Use of Social Networking Sites: The Role of Self-Esteem

Academic journal article International Journal of Business and Information

Problematic Use of Social Networking Sites: The Role of Self-Esteem

Article excerpt


As the popularity of the Internet has grown so have concerns about its problematic use. The term Internet addiction disorder was coined by Ivan Goldberg [1995], who ignited tremendous attention and debate for more than a decade. Internet addiction disorder has been extensively studied, with researchers adopting different perspectives, definitions, theories, and measurement instruments in their investigations. O'Reilly [1996] and Young [1996] were among the first scholars to conduct rigorous academic studies on the concepts related to Internet addiction disorder. They defined the term using the frameworks of substance abuse and pathological gambling. In recent years, researchers have begun to focus on the subtypes of Internet-based problems, such as online sex compulsivity, Internet gambling, online gaming addiction, and problematic instant messaging [Armstrong, Phillips, and Saling, 2000; Griffiths, 2000; Lu and Wang, 2008; Rutland, Sheets, and Young, 2007].

Although Internet addiction has received continuous attention from the press, academics, and the general public, it has not yet been officially considered a mental disorder nor included in the fourth edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). In the current study, we use the term problematic use and study the problematic use of the Internet in the context of social networking sites (SNSs). Young [1998] indicated that the Internet itself is not addictive or problematic, but it is the social features embedded in different forms of the Internet that capture users' attention and draw them to use it - and even to excessively use it. We investigate the phenomenon in the context of social networking sites as we believe the interactive and social features of these sites have the potential to cause problematic use. In addition, the emergence of social networking sites has dramatically changed the way people communicate, as well as Internet use patterns. In a survey titled "Summer '10 Teen Lifestyle Report" conducted in September 2010 with a total of 1,208 respondents of college age, social networking sites were rated the top Web destination for both male and female respondents for the first time, with respondents spending more than 10 hours a week using only Facebook. The report observed, "Teens have caught the Facebook bug: In a word it would be dominance" [YouthTrends, 2011].

Besides the interactive features of SNSs that have a high potential for causing problematic use, researchers have been particularly interested in the relationship between the development of problematic Internet use and psychological well- being [Caplan, 2002, 2007; Kim, LaRose, and Peng, 2009; Kraut et al, 1998]. Psychological well-being has been represented by numerous psychological constructs, including self-esteem, life satisfaction, depression, and loneliness. It is important to speculate which psychological well-being variable may be more salient to the development of problematic use and how this psychological well- being variable leads to the related negative outcomes. Huang [2010] conducted a comprehensive review of studies investigating the relationship between problematic Internet use and psychological well-being variables, and found that this relationship has received considerable attention among researchers. Given the salience of the self-esteem variable in determining different forms and patterns of Internet use, the primary objective of this paper is to investigate how self-esteem, a well-known psychological well-being variable, associates with the development of problematic Internet use in the context of social networking sites.


In this section, we provide a comprehensive review of the literature on different perspectives of problematic Internet use in order to develop a thorough picture of its development and evolution.

2.1. Earlier Studies on Problematic Internet Use

The earliest stream of studies on problematic Internet use emphasized assessment, diagnosis, and treatment. …

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