• 12 •New Zealand Journal of Psychology Vol. 47, No. 3 November 2018Is Social Media Use for Networking Positive or Negative? Offline Social Capital and Internet Addiction as Mediators for the Relationship between Social Media Use and Mental Health Philip Glaser1, James H. Liu1, Moh Abdul Hakim1, 2, Roosevelt Vilar1, Robert Zhang11Massey University, New Zealand, 2Universitas Sebelas Maret, Indonesia The augmentation and displacement hypotheses generated two mediators for the relationship between social media use and mental health. A representative online sample of 1157 New Zealanders (stratified on age, gender, and region) were measured on social media use for networking, offline social capital, internet addiction, anxiety, and depression. Results showed that social media use for networking’s relationship with anxiety and depression was mediated by both offline social capital and internet addiction. Anxiety and depression were lower when mediated by offline social capital, and higher when mediated by internet addiction. Applied to everyday social life, this suggests that when someone uses social media to build on pre-existing offline social capital, their mental health is “augmented”. However, if their online social connections are unrelated to their offline social capital, this might be associated with an internet addiction where their offline social life is “displaced” by over-reliance on brittle online connections. Keywords: social media, social networking, social capital, internet addiction, anxiety, depression, mental health Social media has become a pervasive force in many daily lives. According to Facebook’s latest report in June 2017, the platform had 1.32 billion daily active users and 2.01 billion monthly active users (Facebook, 2017). Social media is an equally dominant force in New Zealand society, with 88% of New Zealanders online visiting a social media site in any given month (The Nielson Company, 2016). According to the Nielson Company (2016), 3.1 Million New Zealanders (81% of the population above 10 years old), own a personal mobile device, while 3.4 Million (88% of the population above 10 years old) use the internet in any given week. A key question asked in the current literature is whether social media positively or negatively impacts the mental health of its users. Currently, there are conflicting answers to this question (Huang, 2010; Huang 2012). However, some of these contradictions might be explained by looking at how people use social media in the context of their online and offline relationships, and how such internet use might be associated with harmful addiction.Positive and Negative effects of Social Media UseThere is currently a lack of consensus in the literature as to whether social media has a positive or negative effect on the wellbeing of its users. Some early research claimed the internet to be a negative force in people’s lives, stating that it was associated with reductions in a person’s social circle and general communication with family members (Kraut et al., 1998). Kraut et al. (1998) also found that internet use was associated with increases in depression and loneliness. However Kraut et al.’s (2002) follow up study on the same sample found that the negative effects had later mostly disappeared, with depression even showing a decrease in the second time period. In a separate study, reported in the same paper, Kraut et al. (2002) found that using the internet for communication and general social involvement was associated with positive effects. In general, use of the internet predicted positive outcomes for extraverts and people with higher levels of social support and predicted negative outcomes for introverts and people with lower levels of social support. This has been described as “the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer”. Although over a decade has passed since Kraut et al.’s seminal studies, there is still complexity and paradox present in the literature that recent meta-analyses have highlighted. Huang (2010) found a significant relationship between internet use and decreased overall wellbeing. Although the effect size was small, the measure of wellbeing used encompassed a wide range of factors like depression, self-esteem, and loneliness. However, two years later in a subsequent meta-analysis, Huang (2012) did not replicate the relationship between internet use and psychological wellbeing, and called for extra attention to be paid to issues in measurement and the effects other variables may have. There is the additional caveat that most published findings are based on cross-sectional (correlational) studies, and very few are based on longitudinal or experimental studies. The current study is also limited to cross-sectional data, and therefore focuses on a mediational model to at least provide some guidance as to what might be a plausible account of the relationship between social media use and mental health.Since these seminal findings were published, several studies have supported the theory that the use of social media can negatively impact on mental health (e.g., Sidani et al., 2016; Vannucci, Flannery, & Ohannessian, 2017). However, in line with the findings of Kraut et al. (2002), social media use has a positive effect when people follow fewer strangers (Lup, Trub, & Rosenthal, 2015) and receive positive feedback from Philip Glaser, James H. Liu, Moh Abdul Hakim, Roosevelt Vilar, Robert Zhang
• 13 •Social Media, Capital, and Internet Addictionothers (Valkenburg, Peter, & Schouten, 2006). These findings can be explained by the augmentation hypothesis, while the literature that claims social media has a negative effect may be explained by the displacement hypothesis (Huang, 2010). These hypotheses should be treated as over-arching explanatory accounts of the relationship between social media use and mental health. Augmentation and displacement should not to be interpreted as measures, as they have been operationalized in the literature through different constructs and measures.The Augmentation and Displacement HypothesesConsidering the augmentation and displacement hypotheses in tandem provides a pathway for explaining some of the contradictions present in the literature. The augmentation hypothesis states that use of the internet builds on and adds to existing face to face relationships, and may improve the giving and receiving of social support, resulting in better mental health for the user. However, the displacement hypothesis states that use of the internet, especially in connecting with people online, displaces face to face social relationships and the quality of social support given and received. This reduces the number and quality of existing friendships and results in negative effects for the user (Huang, 2010). Although these theories appear to be in direct conflict with one another, this can be resolved by looking at possible mediator variables (Huang, 2012).Ahn and Shin (2013) found that the relationship between offline communication and wellbeing was mediated by both connectedness and avoidance of social isolation. However, the relationship between social use of media and wellbeing was mediated by connectedness alone. This demonstrates that the use of social media for communication facilitates connectedness with others, while face to face communication can facilitate both connectedness and avoidance of social isolation. These findings help explain both the augmentation and displacement hypotheses. When someone is seeking connectedness (especially shy people, see Baker & Oswald, 2010), use of the internet can boost social capital offline (i.e., the value of face to face relationships). However, if they are trying to avoid social isolation, use of the internet may instead displace existing offline social relationships by filling up time with brittle and shallow online connections with people who are largely strangers, and failing to develop better social skills. Displacement may also occur when an individual uses the internet excessively, and develops an internet addiction that may then further take time away from face to face relationships (e.g., offline social capital) and positive social interactions. The present paper attempts to demonstrate that the augmentation and displacement hypotheses can be combined through testing the mediators ‘offline social capital’ and ‘internet addiction’, focusing specifically on the potentially problematic variable of social media use for networking.Offline Social Capital and Internet AddictionIt is a well-established finding in the literature that an increase in offline social connections is associated with improvements in mental health (Kawachi & Berkman, 2001; Silva, McKenzie, Harpham, & Huttly, 2005). Thus, it makes sense that the use of online social media platforms would lead to improvements in mental health when it facilitates the development of the user’s social capital offline, as well as the giving and receiving of social support. For instance, Manago et al. (2012) found that the undergraduate students who maintained higher proportions of past social connections (e.g. high school friendships on Facebook) were more likely to feel more social support. Use of the internet specifically for maintaining social connections also shows improvements in mental health. In a survey conducted by Bessiere, Kiesler, Kraut and Boneva (2008), using the internet to communicate with friends and family was associated with reductions in depression after a 6 month period. The same study found that using the internet for gaining information and consuming entertainment had no effect on levels of depression. Therefore, in accord with the augmentation hypothesis, we hypothesize that social media use for networking that facilitates offline social networks should be negatively associated with symptoms of anxiety and depression.The detrimental effect of internet addiction is an equally established finding. Almost two decades ago, Young and Rogers (1998) found a relationship between depression and pathological internet use. Since then multiple studies have highlighted the wide range of detrimental effects internet addiction may have. Kim et al. (2006) conducted a survey on Korean high school students, finding 1.6% of the students to be internet addicts and 38% to be possible internet addicts. The internet addicted group showed the highest levels of both depression and suicidal ideation. Correlational studies have also found a positive relationship between internet addiction and depression, anxiety and stress (Akin & Iskender, 2011). Excessive internet use may be the result of an individual being lonely and lacking social skills (Kim, LaRose, & Peng, 2009). This excessive use may in turn lead to the development of an internet addiction, resulting in further detrimental effects.This study will test whether the variables internet addiction and offline social capital mediate the link between social media use for networking and anxiety and depression. This builds on previous studies and further connects and operationalizes the augmentation and displacement hypotheses. In accord with the augmentation hypothesis, we anticipate that social media use for networking will be associated with decreased levels of anxiety and depression when mediated through offline social capital; but following the displacement hypothesis, we anticipate elevated anxiety and depression when this is mediated through internet addiction.MethodsSampleAnalyses were conducted on New Zealand data (n = 1157, 56% female) from a much larger multinational study, the ‘Worldwide Digital Influence Survey’ (Liu, Milojev, Gil de Zúñiga, & Zhang, 2018). The first wave of the study was fielded online between September 14 and 24, 2015, by Nielsen, a popular media polling company based in the United States that curates a worldwide, online panel with more than 10 million potential participants (see Gil de Zúñiga & Liu, 2017 for New Zealand Journal of Psychology Vol. 47, No. 3, November 2018
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