Over the last twenty years, the Internet became an essential part of every person’s life. There is no doubt that technologies facilitate everyday activities and ease the accomplishment of various tasks. Nevertheless, its excessive use brings adverse health implications that became a challenge for modern psychologists. According to Monacis et al. (2017), Internet addiction is an umbrella term that encompasses many different types of problematic online behaviors such as Internet Gaming Disorder (IGD), online gambling, social networking, and online sex. Online addiction threatens both the mental and physical health of the involved person; thus, timely intervention is needed.
Internet addiction is usually seen as a group of five sub-types. It includes net compulsions, computer addiction, online relationships, cybersexual addiction, and compulsive information seeking (Monacis et al., 2017). Net compulsions are detrimental interaction habits such as compulsive shopping, trading stocks, and online gambling. Such activities usually jeopardize an individual’s relationships, financial stability, and mental health. Computer addiction involves an excessive amount of time spent on activities such as playing computer games, which often decreases productivity and causes eyesight problems. Information seeking is an obsessive-compulsive behavior that urges people to gather and organize data continuously. Cybersex addiction requires an obsession with pornography, web-cam services, adult websites, which makes it difficult to build real-life intimate relationships. Online relationship is about excessive social networking that substitutes real-life friends and family, which leads to limited social skills and social isolation.
Nowadays, it is quite challenging to determine what is normal and what is addictive Internet and technology usage. Griffits and Young presented symptoms of problematic behaviors, which include unpleasant feelings (depression, emptiness, anxiety) when being offline and excessive time spent on such activities (Monacis et al., 2017). Moreover, addicted individuals show increased resistance to the harmful physical effects of being online and usually deny the existence of behavioral issues. It means that online addiction has very similar symptomology with substance use disorders and pathological gambling.
Negative physical effects of online addiction may include Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, problems with vision, weight gain/loss, insomnia, and body aches. Forgotten responsibilities, low job or school performance, reduced involvement with family, and unfinished tasks are examples of the short-term mental effects. Such issues as anxiety, depression, mood swings, aggression, and dishonesty constitute long-term emotional implications. Empirical studies found that there are risk and protective factors of the pathological behavior development that depend on the interplay of sociodemographic and personal characteristics (Monacis et al., 2017). Berzonsky’s social cognitive theory of identity presents three types of strategies used by individuals to process information: normative-oriented, diffuse-avoidance oriented, and information-oriented (Monacis et al., 2017). This theory, together with attachment styles (insecure, avoidant styles), can predict social networking and Internet addiction.
Identity and attachment styles play an important role in the formation of individual online addiction. Monacis et al. (2017), utilized self-report questionnaires that were filled by 712 Italian students and multiple types of analyses, to estimate that the risk and protective factors influence the social media, Internet, and online gaming addiction. The results highlighted that identity styles have the most significant association with online addictions, as they explained up to 30% of the variance. These three addictions very often accompany each other, creating an umbrella construct, which includes different online activities. Normative identity style negatively predicted online addictions, while diffuse-avoidant and informational styles were among risk factors. The security attachment, what is about the positive view of others and self, showed to be a protective factor, whereas avoidant and anxious attachment orientations were found to cause online addictions.
Monacis, L., de Palo, V., Griffiths, M. D., & Sinatra, M. (2017). Exploring individual differences in online addictions: The role of identity and attachment. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 15(4), 853-868. Web.