Internet use by the socially fearful: addiction or therapy?

Cyberpsychol Behav. 2006 Feb;9(1):69-81. doi: 10.1089/cpb.2006.9.69.


The Internet has often been argued to have adverse psychological consequences, such as depression or anxiety symptoms, among "over-users." The present study offers an alternative understanding, suggesting the Internet may be used as a forum for expanding social networks and consequently enhancing the chance of meaningful relationships, self-confidence, social abilities, and social support. An online sample of 188 people was recruited over the Internet, while paper and pencil tests were administered to an offline sample group of 27 undergraduate university students, who were regular Internet users. Subjects completed the Zung Depression Scale (ZDS), Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scales (DASS), Eysenck Personality Questionnaire?Revised Short Scale (EPQ-R Short), Fear of Negative Evaluation (FNE) scale, Internet Use Questionnaire (IUQ), and an Internet Effects Questionnaire (IEQ). Results suggested that there was no relationship between time spent online and depression, anxiety, or social fearfulness. Those who primarily used the Internet for online chat believed that the Internet is psychologically beneficial to them, but also believed that frequent Internet users are lonely and that the Internet can be addictive. It is argued that "chat" users who are socially fearful may be using the Internet as a form of low-risk social approach and an opportunity to rehearse social behavior and communication skills, which, may help them improve interaction with offline, face-to-face, social environments.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anxiety / epidemiology*
  • Australia
  • Behavior, Addictive / epidemiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Fear*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Loneliness
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Personality Inventory
  • Phobic Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Practice, Psychological
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Adjustment
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • Utilization Review / statistics & numerical data