Such media coverage has alleged that women are at greater risk than men for developing addictions to SNSs [ 4 ]. The mass appeal of social networks on the Internet could potentially be a cause for concern, particularly when attending to the gradually increasing amounts of time people spend online [ 5 ].
On the Internet, people engage in a variety of activities some of which may be potentially to be addictive. Rather than becoming addicted to the medium per se, some users may develop an addiction to specific activities they carry out online [ 6 ]. Specifically, Young [ 7 ] argues that there are five different types of internet addiction, namely computer addiction i. SNS addiction appears to fall in the last category since the purpose and main motivation to use SNSs is to establish and maintain both on- and offline relationships for a more detailed discussion of this please refer to the section on motivations for SNS usage.
Social Networking Sites are virtual communities where users can create individual public profiles, interact with real-life friends, and meet other people based on shared interests. The focus is placed on established networks, rather than on networking, which implies the construction of new networks. SNSs offer individuals the possibilities of networking and sharing media content, therefore embracing the main Web 2. In , the most successful current SNS, Facebook , was established as a closed virtual community for Harvard students.
The site expanded very quickly and Facebook currently has more than million users, of whom fifty percent log on to it every day. This statistic alone indicates the exponential appeal of SNSs and also suggests a reason for a rise in potential SNS addiction. Unlike traditional virtual communities that emerged during the s based on shared interests of their members [ 13 ], social networking sites are egocentric sites.
It is the individual rather than the community that is the focus of attention [ 9 ].
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Egocentrism has been linked to Internet addiction [ 14 ]. Supposedly, the egocentric construction of SNSs may facilitate the engagement in addictive behaviors and may thus serve as a factor that attracts people to using it in a potentially excessive way. Attraction is one of the four key components that may predispose individuals to becoming addicted to specific behaviors or substances rather than specific others.
This may lead to positive experiences that can potentially cultivate and facilitate learning experiences that drive the development of SNS addiction. A behavioral addiction such as SNS addiction may thus be seen from a biopsychosocial perspective [ 16 ]. Moreover, scholars have suggested that a combination of biological, psychological and social factors contributes to the etiology of addictions [ 16 , 17 ], that may also hold true for SNS addiction. From this it follows that SNS addiction shares a common underlying etiological framework with other substance-related and behavioral addictions.
However, due to the fact that the engagement in SNSs is different in terms of the actual expression of Internet addiction i. To date, the scientific literature addressing the addictive qualities of social networks on the Internet is scarce. Therefore, with this literature review, it is intended to provide empirical insight into the emerging phenomenon of Internet social network usage and potential addiction by 1 outlining SNS usage patterns, 2 examining motivations for SNS usage, 3 examining personalities of SNS users, 4 examining negative consequences of SNSs, 5 exploring potential SNS addiction, and 6 exploring SNS addiction specificity and comorbidity.
An extensive literature search was conducted using the academic database Web of Knowledge as well as Google Scholar. The following search terms as well as their derivatives were entered: social network, online network, addiction, compulsive, excessive, use, abuse, motivation, personality, and comorbidity. A total of 43 empirical studies were identified from the literature, five of which specifically assessed SNS addiction. Of all Internet users, approximately one-third participate in SNSs and ten percent of the total time spent online is spent on SNSs [ 12 ].
This was more common among boys than girls. Girls preferred to use these sites in order to maintain contacts with actual friends rather than making new ones. Furthermore, half of the teenagers in this sample visited their SNS at least once a day which is indicative of the fact that in order to keep an attractive profile, frequent visits are necessary and this is a factor that facilitates potential excessive use [ 19 ]. Moreover, based on the results of consumer research, the overall usage of SNSs increased by two hours per month to 5.
These results correspond with findings from a different study including another university student sample [ 21 ]. Empirical research has also suggested gender differences in SNS usage patterns. Some studies claim that men tend to have more friends on SNSs than women [ 22 ], whereas others have found the opposite [ 23 ].
In addition, men were found to take more risks with regards to disclosure of personal information [ 24 , 25 ]. Furthermore, one study reported that slightly more females used MySpace specifically i. Usage of SNSs has also been found to differ with regards to age group.
Additionally, teenagers made more use of MySpace web 2.
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With regards to how people react to using SNSs, a recent study [ 27 ] using psychophysiological measures skin conductance and facial electromyography found that social searching i. This finding indicates that the goal-directed activity of social searching may activate the appetitive system, which is related to pleasurable experience, relative to the aversive system [ 28 ].
Therefore, the activation of the appetitive system in social network users who engage in social searching concurs with the activation of that system in people found to suffer from behavioral addictions. In order to establish this link for SNS specifically, further neurobiological research is required. In reviewing SNS usage patterns, the findings of both consumer research and empirical research indicate that overall, regular SNS use has increased substantially over the last few years. This supports the availability hypothesis that where there is increased access and opportunity to engage in an activity in this case SNSs , there is an increase in the numbers of people who engage in the activity [ 32 ].
Moreover, it indicates that individuals become progressively aware of this available supply and become more sophisticated with regards to their usage skills. These factors are associated with the pragmatics factor of addiction specificity etiology [ 15 ]. Pragmatics is one of the four key components of the addiction specificity model and it emphasizes access and habituation variables in the development of specific addictions.
In addition to this, the findings of the presented studies indicate that compared to the general population, teenagers and students make most use of SNSs by utilizing the inherent Web 2. Additionally, there appear to be gender differences in usage, the specifics of which are only vaguely defined and thus require further empirical investigation. This, in turn, may be linked to the activation of the appetitive system, which indicates that engaging in this particular activity may stimulate the neurological pathways known to be related to addiction experience.
Studies suggest that SNS usage in general, and Facebook in particular, differs as a function of motivation i. Drawing on uses and gratification theory, media are used in a goal-directed way for the purpose of gratification and need satisfaction [ 34 ] which have similarities with addiction. Therefore, it is essential to understand the motivations that underlie SNS usage. Persons with higher social identity i.
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Similarly, the results of a survey comprising US university students indicated that social factors were more important motivations for SNS usage than individual factors [ 36 ]. The latter were not related to motivations for using SNSs [ 36 ]. Another study by Barker [ 37 ] presented similar results, and found that collective self-esteem and group identification positively correlated with peer group communication via SNSs. Cheung, Chiu and Lee [ 38 ] assessed social presence i. More specifically, they investigated the We-intention to use Facebook i.
The results of their study indicated that We-intention positively correlated with the other variables [ 38 ].
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Similarly, social reasons appeared as the most important motives for using SNSs in another study [ 20 ]. A further study found that a large majority of students used SNSs for the maintenance of offline relationships, whereas some preferred to use this type of Internet application for communication rather than face-to-face interaction [ 39 ]. The particular forms of virtual communication in SNSs include both asynchronous i. On behalf of the users, these communication modes require learning differential vocabularies, namely Internet language [ 41 , 42 ].
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The idiosyncratic form of communication via SNSs is another factor that may fuel potential SNS addiction because communication has been identified as a component of the addiction specificity etiology framework [ 15 ]. Therefore, it can be hypothesized that users who prefer communication via SNSs as compared to face-to-face communication are more likely to develop an addiction to using SNSs.
However, further empirical research is needed to confirm such a speculation. Moreover, research suggests that SNSs are used for the formation and maintenance of different forms of social capital [ 43 ]. Putnam [ 45 ] differentiates bridging and bonding social capital from one another. Bridging social capital refers to weak connections between people that are based on information-sharing rather than emotional support. Alternatively, bonding social capital indicates strong ties usually between family members and close friends [ 45 ].
SNSs are thought to increase the size of potential networks because of the large number of possible weak social ties among members, which is enabled via the structural characteristics of digital technology [ 47 ]. Therefore, SNSs do not function as communities in the traditional sense. They do not include membership, shared influence, and an equal power allocation.
Instead, they can be conceptualized as networked individualism, allowing the establishment of numerous self-perpetuating connections that appear advantageous for users [ 48 ]. This is supported by research that was carried out on a sample of undergraduate students [ 43 ]. More specifically, this study found that maintaining bridging social capital via participation in SNSs appeared to be beneficial for students with regards to potential employment opportunities in addition to sustaining ties with old friends.
Overall, the benefits of bridging social capital formed via participation in SNSs appeared to be particularly advantageous for individuals with low-self esteem [ 49 ]. However, the ease of establishing and maintaining bridging social capital may become one of the reasons why people with low self-esteem are drawn to using SNSs in a potentially excessive manner. Lower self-esteem, in turn, has been linked to Internet addiction [ 50 , 51 ]. Furthermore, SNS usage has been found to differ between people and cultures.
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A recent study [ 52 ] including samples from the US, Korea and China demonstrated that the usage of different Facebook functions was associated with the creation and maintenance of either bridging or bonding social capital. These findings indicate that due to cultural differences in SNS usage patterns, it appears necessary to investigate and contrast SNS addiction in different cultures in order to discern both similarities and differences.
Additionally, the results of an online survey with a student convenience sample of participants [ 53 ] indicated that several factors significantly predicted the intention to use SNSs as well as their actual usage. The identified predictive factors were i playfulness i. Moreover, normative pressure i. These results suggest that it is particularly the enjoyment associated with SNS use in a hedonic context which has some similarities to addictions , as well as the recognition that a critical mass uses SNSs that motivates people to make use of those SNSs themselves [ 53 ]. Another study [ 54 ] used a qualitative methodology to investigate why teenagers use SNSs.
Interviews were conducted with 16 adolescents aged 13 to 16 years. The results indicated that the sample used SNSs in order to express and actualize their identities either via self-display of personal information which was true for the younger sample or via connections which was true for the older participants.
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