Problematic Internet Use and Time Perspective

As Internet use becomes more widespread, the issue of problematic Internet use (PIU) grows in importance. PIU is a multidimensional syndrome that consists of cognitive, emotional, and behavioural symptoms that result in difficulties with managing one’s offline life (work or school related problems, social skill deficit).

This research aims at studying the possible relations between PIU and time perspective (TP). TP is a process by which individuals partition the flow of human experience into the distinct temporal categories (or frames) of past, present, and future. Individuals with a future TP, for instance, focus on the achievement of future goals while individuals with a present orientation tend to be influenced by the more immediate consequences of their behaviour and are less concerned about future consequences.  TP has been related to different problematic human behaviours. 

This study assesses the role of time perspective in predicting problematic Internet use by studying a sample (n = 149) of Facebook users. Participants (79 male, 70 female, mean age = 32.40, SD = 11.80) completed electronic versions of the Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory (ZTPI) to assess their time perspective. The ZTPI subdivides the past, present and future temporal frames into five subscales: 1) The Past Negative (a generally negative, aversive view of the past which might be due to experiences of unpleasant or traumatic events), 2) the Past Positive (a more sentimental and warm view of the past), 3) the Present Hedonistic (a hedonistic, risk-taking attitude towards time and life), 4) the Present Fatalistic (a fatalistic, helpless, and hopeless attitude towards life), and 5) the Future (a general future orientation, suggesting that behaviour is dominated by a striving for future goals and rewards). Participants also completed the Generalized Problematic Internet Use Scale 2 to assess their PIU. 

The results meet the hypothesis and show that Past Negative and Present Fatalistic temporal frames are predictors of problematic Internet use. Time perspective plays a significant role in problematic internet use, in particular for people who have a Present Fatalistic or Past Negative orientation. These individuals might be more willing to use the Internet to alleviate their negative moods. Time perspective is an individual difference construct that should be taken into consideration in the context of problematic internet use.

Chittaro, L. & Vianello, A. (2013) Time perspective as a predictor of problematic Internet use: A Study of Facebook users. Personality and Individual Differences, 55, 989-993 (excerpts taken); photo via
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