People with internet addiction react the worst when WiFi fails

Our fear of missing out predicts extreme reactions when digital technology fails


London, November 1, 2018

Do you get frustrated and angry when your WiFi connection stops working? It could be because of your personality. When digital technology stops working, people with a fear of missing out (FOMO) – the anxiety that you’re missing a social experience others might be having while you’re not online – or an internet addiction have more extreme reactions, according to a new study in Heliyon.

The researchers behind the study, psychologists Dr. Lee Hadlington and Dr. Mark Scase from De Montfort University in the UK, also show that certain personality traits directly influence people’s responses to failures in digital technology: people who were seen as being more neurotic and extroverted had more extreme reactions to failures in digital technology.

“The ‘frustration’ response is one of the things we all experience on a daily basis, so it seemed to be a logical step in our research,” said lead author Dr. Lee Hadlington. “Much of the existing research on this topic is from the 1940s – you could say that this research is the first of its kind to actually explore how individual react to failures with digital technology, and more importantly, places this in the context of the modern digital era.”

If something goes wrong with digital technology that prevents us from being online, we will react in different ways. ‘Maladaptive’ responses include getting angry, panicking or feeling depressed; these responses are not only unhelpful, they have also been shown to have a detrimental impact on productivity and achieving goals, and can therefore lead to poor job performance. If the digital technology failure is due to a malicious cyberattack, this could affect many people and businesses, so it’s important to understand the responses in order to limit the negative effects.

“If we can understand what leads individuals to react in certain ways, and why these differences occur, we can hopefully make sure that when digital technology does fail people are better supported and there are relevant signposts for them to follow to get help,” said Dr. Hadlington.

In the study, 630 participants aged 18-68 completed an online questionnaire in which they self-reported their responses to failures in digital technology, fear of missing out, internet addiction and answered questions that scored them on the BIG-5 personality traits: extraversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness and neuroticism

The results showed that the fear of missing out, internet addiction, extroversion and neuroticism all have a significantly positive influence on maladaptive responses, meaning the people most psychologically dependent on digital technology are most likely to have maladaptive responses when it goes wrong.

They also showed a link between age and response: as age increases, the level of frustration that a person experiences decreases.

“The more we use our devices, the more we get attached to them, so when they don’t work, we tend to just go a little bit ‘crazy’ or just switch off and stop doing things altogether,” said Dr. Hadlington. “But there are things people can do when technology fails to make their lives a lot easier – extreme reactions only make things worse!”

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Notes for editors
The article is “End-User Frustrations and failures in digital technology: Exploring the role of Fear of Missing out, Internet addiction and Personality” by Lee Hadlington and Mark Scase (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.heliyon.2018.e00872). The article appears in Heliyon (November 2018), published by Elsevier.

Copies of this paper are available to credentialed journalists upon request; please contact Victoria Howard at v.howard@elsevier.com.

In online coverage of this paper, please mention the journal Heliyon and link to the paper at http://www.heliyon.com/article/e00872

About Heliyon
Heliyon is an open access journal from Elsevier that publishes robust research across all disciplines. The journal's team of experts ensures that each paper meeting their rigorous criteria is published quickly and distributed widely. Led by Dr. Claudia Lupp, the editorial team consists of over 1,000 active researchers who review papers on their merit, validity, and technical and ethical soundness. All published papers are immediately and permanently available on both Heliyon.com and ScienceDirect.

About Elsevier
Elsevier is a global information analytics business that helps institutions and professionals advance healthcare, open science and improve performance for the benefit of humanity. Elsevier provides digital solutions and tools in the areas of strategic research management, R&D performance, clinical decision support and professional education, including ScienceDirect, Scopus, SciVal, ClinicalKey and Sherpath. Elsevier publishes over 2,500 digitized journals, including The Lancet and Cell, more than 38,000 e-book titles and many iconic reference works, including Gray's Anatomy. Elsevier is part of RELX Group, a global provider of information and analytics for professionals and business customers across industries. www.elsevier.com

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