Social Networking Sites (SNSs) are virtual communities where users can create individual public profiles, interact with real-life friends, and meet other people based on shared interests. They are seen as a 'global consumer phenomenon' with an exponential rise in usage within the last few years. Anecdotal case study evidence suggests that 'addiction' to social networks on the Internet may be a potential mental health problem for some users. However, the contemporary scientific literature addressing the addictive qualities of social networks on the Internet is scarce. Therefore, this literature review is intended to provide empirical and conceptual insight into the emerging phenomenon of addiction to SNSs by: (1) outlining SNS usage patterns, (2) examining motivations for SNS usage, (3) examining personalities of SNS users, (4) examining negative consequences of SNS usage, (5) exploring potential SNS addiction, and (6) exploring SNS addiction specificity and comorbidity. The findings indicate that SNSs are predominantly used for social purposes, mostly related to the maintenance of established offline networks. Moreover, extraverts appear to use social networking sites for social enhancement, whereas introverts use it for social compensation, each of which appears to be related to greater usage, as does low conscientiousness and high narcissism. Negative correlates of SNS usage include the decrease in real life social community participation and academic achievement, as well as relationship problems, each of which may be indicative of potential addiction.
Keywords: comorbidity; literature review; motivations; negative consequences; personality; social network addiction; social networking sites; specificity.