Contradictory evidence exists regarding the benefit of the Internet for social and personal wellbeing, with some studies indicating deleterious effects and others possible social enrichment. The potential for increased social isolation from ‘overinvolvement’ in online activities or, conversely, the Internet's possibilities for enhancing social relationships, may be particularly salient during young adulthood and adolescence because of the special importance of the peer group during this developmental phase. This study was an investigation of the relationships between the levels of identity development, Internet use and social anxiety among a sample of 161 older adolescents/young adults aged between 18 and 25. Results indicated that, for males only, higher levels of social anxiety and less mature identity statuses were associated with more frequent Internet use, specifically time spent in chatrooms, online browsing for personal use, and games. For females (who were in this sample less socially anxious, more identity-developed, and lower users of the Internet than males), social anxiety and identity status were not significantly associated with time spent online. Discussion centred around the potential roles of Internet use in reinforcing already-existing social anxiety or, alternatively, in supporting and maintaining social contacts in those with lower levels of social deficit.
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