Date of Award

6-8-2010

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Kimberely J. Husenits, Psy.D.

Second Advisor

Beverly J. Goodwin, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

John A. Mills, Ph.D., ABPP

Abstract

The Internet provides an opportunity for individuals to interact with friends and family members, to research any topic they can imagine, and to explore the world while sitting in the comfort of their own home. The popular media suggests that Internet usage decreases the amount of social interaction individuals have with the world outside of their computer and may be accompanied by social anxiety, loneliness, lowered self-esteem, or chronic depression, and the psychological literature’s mixed findings on these topics have not helped clarify the issue. This study looked at the impact that Internet usage has on an individual’s psychological well-being in an effort to clarify and expand on the previous research. Participants in this study were undergraduates at a state university in rural Pennsylvania. Participants were randomly selected through a psychology department subject pool. They completed several psychological questionnaires and tracked their Internet usage and social engagement for a seven-day period. Results indicated that time spent on the Internet was not predictive of depression, social anxiety, or social engagement in face-to-face relationships or online relationships. The type of activity engaged in online was also not predictive of depression, social anxiety, or social engagement in face-to-face relationships or online relationships. However, results indicated that there was a significant difference in the way that participants responded to measures of social anxiety when referencing face-to-face relationships as opposed to online relationships. Limitations included not tracking ethnicity of participants, an unequal distribution of gender across the population, and that the population was restricted to undergraduate students in a rural setting. Based on these results, future research would benefit from exploring differences in individual’s perceptions of online relationships compared with face-to-face relationships, and from exploring similar questions in non-college aged, ethnically diverse populations with gender equally distributed across the sample.

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