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Posted at: Jan 10, 2017, 10:02 PM; last updated: Jan 10, 2017, 10:02 PM (IST)

New model may help internet addicts reduce usage

New model may help internet addicts reduce usage
Photo source: Thinkstock

New York

Internet addicts do not always feel guilty about their usage, and in many cases do not even perceive their usage as problematic, preventing them from trying to correct their behaviours, a study has found.

A new model developed by researchers at Binghamton University, State University of New York could help addicts realise that their usage is a problem and reduce it.

Isaac Vaghefi, assistant professor at Binghamton University, has developed a framework using a theory from psychology known as cognitive dissonance, which is the discomfort felt by those whose actions conflict with their beliefs (eg someone who believes that smoking is unhealthy but chain smokes).

Along with Hamed Qahri-Saremi, assistant professor at DePaul University in the US, Vaghefi developed a model showing that the degree of users' cognitive dissonance can make a difference in their willingness to quit their online addiction.

"Dissonance is what we need to work on and what we need to help increase for users to make sure that they will do some action to limit their control," said Vaghefi.

"We have users who say, 'I know I'm using a lot, but everyone around me is using a lot.' What we need to do is highlight the negative consequences for them," he said.

"We can objectively use instruments that will show them the negative outcomes, so they will understand these consequences," he added.

"Once people see those negative consequences, they will act on them and will be motivated to exert self-control," he said.

Vaghefi tested the model on data collected from 226 students who said how much they were intending to either stop or continue their usage of social networking sites.

The findings show that a plausible way to help individuals to reduce or quit usage is to increase their cognitive dissonance.

The findings suggest that making users aware of their addiction, in particular the consequences on personal, social, and academic lives caused by addiction, increases their cognitive dissonance about their behaviour.

"People have already looked at the role of guilt in regard to technology use and how we can change it," said Vaghefi.

Addressing these issues is especially important considering how commonplace technology usage and online behaviours are to today's youth.

"It's so widespread and prevalent, especially the younger generation. These are people who have been raised with technology. They don't even feel that there is a problem. If you highlight the consequences for them, they will hopefully do something," he said. — PTI

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