Problematic Internet Use, Aggressive Behavior, and Low Self-Esteem

Problematic Internet Use, Aggressive Behavior, and Low Self-Esteem in the Digital Age

Problematic Internet Use, Aggressive Behavior, and Low Self-Esteem

There is a significant relationship between behavior and self-esteem, the overall sense of worthiness for any individual and fundamental human motive in today’s diversified cultures (Yao, He, Ko,& Pang, 2014).Self-esteem is the fourth most important determinant of human needs according to the theory of Maslow along with independence, respect, achievement and competence. Moreover, the behavior of individuals is greatly influenced by the degree of self-esteem. For instance, Odacı and Kınık(2018) argue that self-esteem consists of two key components: the competence of individuals in performing tasks and solving problems individually, and acceptance by others and feeling of being loved. Although these components have been around for decades, there is still much to understand about the impacts and influences of these conceptions within the digital age as our self-esteem may be greatly influenced by what we perceive as reality, social imagination, identification and the changing landscape of self-portrayal. Moreover, Odacı & Kınık (2018) further discovered that social interactions changed people’s self-esteem i.e. individuals used judgments and comments; they receive by others to measure their self-worthiness, image and most importantly behavior.                                                              Generally, behavior is developed via self-concept; derived within the social settings and is based on the assumptions of perceiving judgment, which ultimately reflects an individual’s self-esteem. Furthermore, positive or negative responses to social judgments are one of the important indicators of the relationship between low self-esteem and negative behavior (i.e. if someone receives negative comments or feedback about themselves, they might get depressed, angry, sad etc.)For example, Kashdan (2014) examined self-esteem among 25 participants (16 females graduated) via daily observation for three weeks at the University of Kentucky. The authors were specifically interested in the negative physiological effects of social rejection, that is, heightened neural responses of social distress. In short, the findings indicated a stronger toxic combination of low self-esteem and negative emotion (i.e. aggression due to the reaction of social rejection). In contrast, those who had high negative emotional state responded less to social rejection because they seemed immune to the negative feedback regardless of the low self-esteem scale. Additionally, the conceptualization of responses or judgments as either negative or positive reflected the level of self-esteem in individuals respectively. Similarly, the process of categorization of such judgments also plays an important role in organizing the daily social interactions. In a study by Kang and Bodenhausen (2015), the authors categorized judgments on social perceiver’s impressions and interactions. The research was conducted using a qualitative paradigm, which was based on the study of systematic past literature in the context of the difficulties and challenges perceived on the social interactions by the targeted audience. The researchers studied the interrelatedness of judgments and responses received through different social interactions of the targeted audience to understand the different and multiple socially interacted identity changes as well as opportunities and compared them with their experiences. This helped to understand the behavioral changes and attitudes developed through these social interactions. Evidence further suggested that having multiple judgments is one of the human psychological experiences that influence the outcomes of how interpersonal and intergroup social process of individuals perceive the feedbacks of these judgments and ultimately form their negative behavior and self-esteem.                                                                                                      Similar results were found when the judgments received were taken into consideration as social support for self-esteem. For example, Marshall, Parker, Ciarrochi, and Heaven(2014), through the interrelatedness of self-esteem studied the context of these social responses and judgments. The authors conducted a 5-year study where 961 adolescents in grades 8-12 were bi-yearly surveyed in Catholic schools in the NSW region of Australia. Using the 10-item Rosenberg Self-Esteem scale (RES), data was collected through social support questionnaires ‘and structural equation modeling (SEM) was used to identify the response of these judgments. The results showed that social support and the network size of social interactions represented the outcome of these judgments to be increasing or decreasing the level of self-esteem, meaning the more vigorous and larger the social interactions of individuals is, the greater the affect level of self-esteem and greater the change in behaviors such as….Furthermore, positivity and negativity in judgments gave rise to different self-esteem trajectories, which researchers, had discussed in diversified cultures(i.e. stress, self-expression, perceptions, self-image, trust, and different realities of social interactions) and their influence within the digital age.

In understanding the relationship between behavior and self-esteem, one must consider how self-esteem develops, and how these trajectories influence behavior.  For example, Krause, Back, Egloff, and Schmukle(2016), interviewed 139 unacquainted students across different field of studies and were divided into 32 groups consisting of four members each. The rest of the students were divided initially into separate groups for testing and validating purposes. The procedure included examining the outcomes using explicit self-esteem ESE measure, which asks the participants to self-report themselves. The 127 participants were examined using the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale and the Multidimensional Self-Esteem Scale. Consequently, there were different social situations in which self-confidence and behavior reacted differently. Furthermore, by using unacquainted others, the phenomena of social interactions of the digital age were determined; that is, self-confidence is significantly affected by the different social interactions). Along with the outcomes of how self-esteem is assessed by self-behavior, it is important to discuss the consciousness of perception, as it is another indicator of assessing the level of self-esteem and changes in behavior.

Furthermore, Zywica & Danowski (2008) conducted a study with 614 college freshmen to college alumni of a university in the Midwestern United States comprising of 71.8% females and 28.2% male with varied ethnicities. More than 70% participants were engaged in social media usage and interaction especially Facebook. The Rosenberg Self-Esteem tool was used in an online survey comprised of 10 questions based on social interaction. The results indicated that participants who were popular or non-popular on Facebook mentioned “friends” when they were assessing their popularity on social media. The participants gave different social attributes such as bored, younger, lonely, angry, immature, insecure, etc. for many of the questions asked using the RSE model and other models such as Cronbach’s alpha values and aggregate semantic networks framework. In addition, two hypotheses were tested, the Social Enhancement (‘‘Rich Get Richer’’) and the Social Compensation(‘‘Poor Get Richer’’). It was observed that the more extroverted and higher self-esteem participants supported the Social Enhancement hypothesis, and the more introverted and lower self-esteem participants supported the Social Compensation. In other words, within the digital age people build their perceptions on the feedback and judgements of others while using the internet.

Similarly, in the context of the different trajectories being an important indicator, Morin et al. (2017) examined different outcomes of the development of self-esteem through different trajectories by assessing the different cognitive abilities of individuals within social interactions. The study included138 Australian adolescents (90 were males and 48 females) with low levels of cognitive ability who were compared to a sample of 556 Australian adolescents with high levels of cognitive ability. Moreover, the students’ self-esteem was measured using the Rosenberg Self-Esteem scale, and the corresponding behavior to the questions was similar to the one applied under various social interactions, particularly in younger populace. Furthermore, to determine the outcome of the social interaction being positive or negative, the self-esteem levels changed resulting in an increase or decrease in their morale or self-esteem, verifying that that the impact on a person is directly is based on the person’s socially built environment. Moreover, the results showed that long term and stable levels of self-esteem was observed in males as compared to the females regardless of the level of cognitive ability. When identifying the nature of trajectories of self-esteem and corresponding behaviors, it is pertinent to discuss the outcomes or reactions (perceptions) of these trajectories. Trust and level of attachment (negative or positive) can help identify the psychological wellbeing in the context of what we perceive as reality. For example, Orehek and Human (2017) examined the effects of self-expression and the attachment style of 128 undergraduate Twitter users ages 18-22. The authors examined impulsivity, self-expression and attachment style using the Impulsive Behavior Scale, Rosenberg Self-Esteem (RSE)and Experiences in Close Relationships–Revised methods. The authors investigated the extent which self-expression and self-esteem on social media platforms such as Twitter elicited positive and accurate social perceptions. Thus, the aim of the study was to assess the accurateness of these terms during social interactions. Findings indicated positive and accurate social perceptions. However, there were some differences noted in the choice of how (word usage) was used to tweet the information. This demonstrated that self-expression can elicit both positive and negative perceptions and it can help accurately curate these perceptions.

Likewise, other researchers assessed the ability of general trust, impeded by self-reporting under social interactions. For example, Manson, Gervais, and Bryant (2018) examined ….. with 108 undergraduates of University of California, Los Angeles of which included 70% females and 30% males. The authors tested the students by showing short videos of varying stimuli i.e. happy, sad, angry etc. with 1.5 minute of low pass filtered uncompressed audio files, playing varying sounds of different frequencies to test their behavioral response. The self-reporting procedure was based Self-Report Psychopathy (LSRP) scale consisting of general trust, caution, and empathy. The findings indicated that participants with higher general trust made less accurate judgments. In contrast, psychopathic traits (perception of others) were maintained through the balance of negative and positive interactions socially among them. In other words, the perception of others—through physical or digital interaction attraction—can affect self-image and behavior.                                                                                                                               Overall, excessive internet may lower self-esteem, which results in negative behaviors such as aggression. Furthermore; positive or negative judgments on the internet can change the perception of a person’s own self-image, resulting in mood swings and aggressive behaviors. It is hypothesized that problematic and risky internet use is associated with aggressive behavior. It is also hypothesized that the relationship between problematic and risky internet use and aggressive behavior will be explained by lower self-esteem.



Participants will consist of 120 college students between the ages of 18 to 35, both males and females being roughly equal. In addition, majority of the participants will be from Framingham State University solicited in common areas of the campus and classrooms. In addition, participants from Framingham State might receive slips that may allow them to be eligible for extra credit in their classes.


Problem and Risky Internet Use Screening Scale (PRIUSS). To assess the participant’s internet habits, the PRIUSS scale (Appendix C) will be used. The PRIUSS has 18 items with three subscales: Social Impairment (items 1-6), which assess the impact of internet use on both offline and online social interactions; Emotional Impairment Use (items 7-11), which assesses degree of emotional attachment to internet use, and Risky/Impulsive Internet Use (items 12-18), which assess salient problematic behaviors regarding internet use. The items will be rated on a 5-point type of Likert Scale (0=never to 4=very often).                                                           Buss-Perry Aggression Scale. To examine the participants’ aggression, the Buss-Perry scale (Appendix D) will be used. The Buss-Perry has 29 items with four sub-scales measuring different types of aggression: Physical Aggression (items 1-9), Verbal Aggression (items 10-14),  Anger(items 15-21), and Hostility (items 22-29). The items are rated on a 6-point type of Likert Scale (1=extremely uncharacteristic of me to 6=extremely characteristic of me).                               Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale. To evaluate participants’ self-esteem, the Rosenberg Self-esteem (Appendix E) will be used. The scale is a 10-item scale that measures global self-worth by measuring both positive and negative feelings of self. The items are based on a 4-point type of Likert Scale (0=strongly agree to 3=strongly disagree.)


Data will be collected using convenience sampling in common areas of Framingham State University and FSU classrooms with the instructor’s permission. The participating volunteers will be briefed about the study and will be provided with consent to read and sign (Appendix B). Furthermore, four surveys will be provided to complete Buss-Perry aggression scale, Self-esteem scale, PRIUSS scale, and a demographics survey.  After completing the surveys, the volunteers will be provided with a participant slip and a debriefing statement (Appendix F) explaining the true purpose of the study, and contact information; if they would like to learn more about the research or have additional questions. The institutional review will approve this research recruitment.


Demographical data (Appendix A) will include the participants age, ethnicity, gender, GPA, college program, employment, hours of work, marital status, living on or off campus.


Appendix A

Demographics Survey

Demographic Information Form


Instructions:   Please provide a response for each of the following questions:

1.      What is your age?  __________

2.      What is your Sex?

            Female Male 

3.      With which racial or ethnic category do you identify

            African American/BlackAsian/Pacific Islander Caucasian Latina/o

            Other:  ____________________

  1. College Program? ___________________
  2. GPA? ___________________
  3. Employment?


If yes, how many hours: ____________

  1. Marital Status: _______________
  2. Residence or Commuter

Appendix B

Consent Form

Spring 2019

Dear Student,

Thank you for your interest in my study on Internet use, behavior and self-esteem. I am a psychology major at Framingham State University and am completing a research project as part of a Research Methods II course requirement. You must be 18 years of age or older to participate in this study. If you choose to participate in the study, you will be asked to fill out a survey that will take approximately 10-15 minutes to complete. It includes a variety of questions about internet use, behavior and self-esteem. You will be asked to provide information about yourself. As you complete the survey, I will be in the area to answer any questions and to collect materials.

Please keep in mind that your participation is completely voluntary, and you have the right to withdraw at any time, for any reason, or to leave any items blank that may make you feel uncomfortable.  However, it is hoped that you will complete as much of the survey as possible.  There are no right or wrong answers; I am simply looking to gather information about your experiences and opinions.  Keep in mind that your responses are confidential.  This means that to protect your identity, no names are attached to the surveys and all findings will be reported as averages or percentages. Individual responses will not be discussed.

If you choose to complete this survey, please read and then sign on the line on the attached page and return only the signed page to me. I will then give you the survey to complete.  Please keep this cover page for your own records. If you have any questions, I will be nearby while you complete the survey.  My professor is Dr. Tamara (email). You may contact her by phone at (555)555-5555. She will be happy to answer questions about this study and the course.

When you have completed the survey, please return it to me and I will provide you with a debriefing form and participation slip. Some professors may accept participation receipts in their courses for extra credit in psychology classes. Again, thank you for your interest in my study.


Research Methods II Student

I, _____________________________________ have read the attached letter and understanding what I am being asked to do. I am 18 years of age or older. I am aware of the conditions of the study and understand that I can withdraw at any time or leave any items blank. I understand that the study is completely voluntary and that there will be no identifying information revealed about me or any what to link my name to my answers. I am aware that I have the opportunity to ask any questions.

____________________________                                        ______________________

Signature                                                                                 Date


Appendix C


Problematic and Risky Internet Use Screening Scale (PRIUSS)

Please answer the questions below based on how you have felt and conducted yourself regarding your Internet use over the past 6 months. Please do your best to interpret these questions as they apply to your own experiences and feelings. When considering your Internet use time, think about any time you spend online, whether you are using a computer or a mobile device. Do not include time you spend texting unless you are using text messages to interact with an online application such as Facebook or Twitter.

Please input a response number in the box which best describes your answer


1. Never 2. Rarely 3. Sometimes 4. Often 5. Very Often

How often …


No. Question Response #
1. do you choose to socialize online instead of in-person?  
2. do you have problems with face to face communication due to your internet use?  
3. do you experience increased social anxiety due to your internet use?  
4. do you fail to create real-life relationships because of the internet?  
5. do you skip out on social events to spend time online?  
6. do your offline relationships suffer due to your internet use?  
7. do you feel irritated when you’re not able to use the internet?  
8. do you feel angry because you are away from the internet?  
9. do you feel anxious because you are away from the internet?  
10. do you feel vulnerable when the internet isn’t available?  
11. do you experience feelings of withdrawal from not using the internet?  
12. do you put internet use in front of important, everyday activities?  
13. do you avoid other activities in order to stay online?  
14. do you neglect your responsibilities because of the internet?  
15. do you lose sleep due to nighttime internet use?  
16. do you lose sleep due to nighttime internet use?  
17. does time on the internet negatively affect your school performance?  
18. do you feel you use the internet excessively?  


Appendix D

Buss-Perry Aggression Scale

Buss-Perry Scale

Please rate each of the following items in terms of how characteristic they are of you. Use

the following scale for answering these items.


1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Extremely Uncharacteristic of me.           Extremely Characteristic of me.


No. Question Rating
1. Once in a while I can’t control the urge to strike another person.  
2. Given enough provocation, I may hit another person.  
3. If somebody hits me, I hit back.  
4. I get into fights a little more than the average person.  
5. If I have to resort to violence to protect my rights, I will.  
6. There are people who pushed me so far that we came to blows.  
7. I can think of no good reason for ever hitting a person.  
8. I have threatened people I know.  
9. I have become so mad that I have broken things.  
10. I tell my friends openly when I disagree with them.  
11. I often find myself disagreeing with people.  
12. When people annoy me, I may tell them what I think of them.  
13. I can’t help getting into arguments when people disagree with me.  
14. My friends say that I’m somewhat argumentative.  
15. I flare up quickly but get over it quickly.  
16. When frustrated, I let my irritation show.  
17. I sometimes feel like a powder keg ready to explode.  
18. I am an even-tempered person.  
19. Some of my friends think I’m a hothead  
20. Sometimes I fly off the handle for no good reason.  
21. I have trouble controlling my temper.  
22. I am sometimes eaten up with jealousy.  
23. At times I feel I have gotten a raw deal out of life.  
24. Other people always seem to get the breaks.  
25. I wonder why sometimes I feel so bitter about things.  
26. I know that “friends” talk about me behind my back.  
27. I am suspicious of overly friendly strangers.  
28. I sometimes feel that people are laughing at me behind me back.  
29. When people are especially nice, I wonder what they want.  


Appendix E

Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale

Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale

Below is a list of statements dealing with your general feelings about yourself. Please indicate how strongly you agree or disagree with each statement.

1. Strongly Agree 2. Agree 3. Disagree 4. Strongly Disagree


No. Question Rating #
1. On the whole, I am satisfied with myself.
2. At times I think I am no good at all.
3. I feel that I have a number of good qualities.
4. I am able to do things as well as most other people.
5. I feel I do not have much to be proud of.
6. I certainly feel useless at times.
7. I feel that I’m a person of worth, at least on an equal plane with others.
8. I wish I could have more respect for myself.
9. All in all, I am inclined to feel that I am a failure.
10. I take a positive attitude toward myself.