Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Stability of Implicit Self-Esteem among Internetaddicted College Students in China

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Stability of Implicit Self-Esteem among Internetaddicted College Students in China

Article excerpt

The rapid spread of the Internet has led to it assuming an important role in people's work and lives. However, there are two sides to every coin: although the Internet has made various aspects of daily life more convenient, cases of Internet addiction are on a sharp rise (Shek & Yu, 2012). On the basis of results obtained in epidemiological surveys, the prevalence of Internet addiction in the United States and European countries is between 1.5% and 8.2% (Weinstein & Lejoyeux, 2010; Yao, He, Ko, & Pang, 2014). Compared to North American students, Chinese students have been found to have a higher rate of Internet addiction (Zhang, Amos, & McDowell, 2008). Further, Kuss, Griffiths, Karila, and Billieux (2013) conducted an epidemiological study on Internet addiction in Shanghai, China, and found that 8.8% of the 5,122 sampled adolescents met the criteria for Internet addiction.

Although, currently, the definition of Internet addiction or pathological use of the Internet remains ambiguous, excessive Internet use undoubtedly leads to a series of problems (Bozoglan, Demirer, & Sahin, 2013). At present, many researchers are exploring the relationship between Internet addiction and various core variables, including a sense of loneliness, symptoms of psychiatric and dissociative disorders, social support, introversion, psychosocial well-being, depression, hostility, and the prevalence of social anxiety disorder (Bozoglan et al., 2013; Bulut Serin, 2011; Ko, Yen, Yen, Chen, & Chen, 2012; Zhao, Chen, Su, & Ren, 2016).

In addition to these variables, the relationship between self-esteem and Internet addiction is another important research area (Senol-Durak & Durak, 2011). Self-esteem refers to a global evaluation of oneself or one's self-worth (Baumeister, 2013). Problematic Internet use and Internet addiction commonly exist among college students because they have more free time than other people do (Smahel, Brown, & Blinka, 2012). Further, researchers have shown that college students' level of self-esteem is strongly related to both Internet use (Jackson, von Eye, Fitzgerald, Zhao, & Witt, 2010) and Internet addiction (Kim & Davis, 2009). Aydn and San (2011) conducted a regression analysis and revealed that individuals with low (vs. high) self-esteem were more likely to have a tendency toward Internet addiction. In a study on the relationship between self-esteem and Internet use, Bozoglan et al. (2013) revealed that individuals with low (vs. high) self-esteem spent significantly more time on social networking sites. Niemz, Griffiths, and Banyard (2005) suggested that low self-esteem individuals seek refuge in the Internet because self-expression on the Internet is more controllable than in the real world, and their needs can be better met on the Internet. Although most researchers support the notion of there being an association between low self-esteem and Internet addiction, the cause-effect relationship between the two variables has not been determined. In addition to the view that low self-esteem is an important predictor of Internet addiction (Aydn & San, 2011), two other considerations have also been put forward. First, the low self-esteem of individuals addicted to the Internet may be attributed to the social isolation that results from this addiction (Craig, 1995). Second, low self-esteem and social isolation may interact, resulting in a cause-effect cycle (Niemz et al., 2005; Yao et al., 2014).

Although researchers have found that low self-esteem is closely related to Internet addiction, the studies we have cited above were all based on examinations of explicit self-esteem. Buhrmester, Blanton, and Swann (2011) criticized the traditional method of measuring external self-esteem on the grounds that there were at least three limitations to the measures of explicit self-esteem: First, the measurement involved a processed, conscious self-evaluation process and did not tap an individual's unconscious aspects or consciousness; second, when participants realized that the measurement was focused on self-expression, it became difficult to obtain an accurate assessment because of the pressure or influence of social approval; and third, there was no reliable predictive validity of explicit self-esteem. …

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