Date of Award

12-1-2010

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Rodriguez, Benjamin

Abstract

The current study investigated how the constructs of social anxiety, relationship support, self-esteem, and personality traits may be related to overall Internet use, and using the Internet for communication, information seeking, entertainment and online gaming. Participants were 258 undergraduate college students (142 males, 116 females) at a Midwestern University, who identified as predominantly European-American (48.1%) or African-American (37.6%). Students completed self-report questionnaires in online format. Results were generally contrary to the study's hypotheses. This investigation found a positive relationship between the personality trait of Openness and student's overall time using the Internet (p < .01), as well as time spent engaging in online gaming (p < .05) and online information seeking (p < .01). Additionally, demographic variables were related to Internet usage such that a positive relationship was found between student's identification as an African-American and overall time using the Internet (p < .01), time spent communicating online (p < .01), and time spent utilizing online entertainment (p < .01). A positive relationship was also found between gender and time spent online gaming (p < .01), indicating that males engaged in online gaming at higher rates than females. This study also examined motivations for Internet usage and results indicated that frequently endorsed motivations were communicating with others, seeking entertainment, looking for information online, and coping with problems. Prior research has supported potential relationships between social anxiety, relationship support, self-esteem, and particular personality traits and Internet usage; however, the current study failed to find many of these relationships. The failure to find hypothesized relationships between numerous psychological variables and Internet usage could be related to numerous factors, such as changes in Internet usage over time, measurement concerns regarding instruments used in the current study, or differences in sample composition relative to previous research investigating these relationships.

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