Summary of Recent Publications

Older adults’ online information seeking and subjective well-being: The moderating role of Internet skills

The Internet and online information can be a valuable resource in the process of successful aging. Self-rated health was the strongest predictor of life satisfaction among older adults (sample of 643 Swiss Internet users, average age 68). Online information seeking (advice, medical, culture) had an additional positive effect comparable to that of income or not being single. And: this positive effect of information seeking increased with higher Internet skills.

 

From use to overuse: Digital inequality in the age of communication abundance

A negative side effect of the abundance of digital communication options in everyday life is subjective overuse: feelings of spending too much time online, doing too many things at once online, or losing time for more important things. Rapid Internet diffusion opened a “cultural delay”: We lack social norms that protect us from pressure from others online and set limits to digital media usage in daily life, but also govern offline social interactions while permanently having digital devices at our fingertips.

Our large online survey in Italy revealed that between 26% and 43% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with statements about overuse. Slightly higher for women, much higher for younger users. Perceptions of digital overuse are virtually the same for different educational groups; however, higher education is associated with higher digital communication use and higher social digital pressure. In a structural equation model, perceiving more pressure to respond quickly to messages or expectations of being able to use various Internet applications (pressure) positively predicted the perception of doing too many things at once or spending too much time online (overuse).

Disparities in the ability to defend against the Internet’s collateral negative effects emerge as a new facet of digital inequality – one which is no longer linked to the scarcity of access and usage opportunities but to the management of their overabundance. Future research will have to address the causal impact of perceived digital overuse on measurable, socially relevant consequences such as learning outcomes, productivity at work, subjective well-being, or quality of social relationships. 

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