Previous research has found a consistent association between depressive symptomatology and a problematic use of the Internet, however, the causal pathways responsible for this association are not well known. Following emotion regulation theory, the present study aimed to explore the longitudinal dynamics between using the Internet to distract oneself, difficulties controlling Internet use, and depressive symptoms. A sample of 163 adults from Chile completed intensive self-reports about Internet use and depressive symptoms over 35 days. Using growth curve models, we predicted depressive symptoms both by a person's average tendency (between-subjects) to use the internet for distraction and having problems controlling internet use, and by momentary fluctuations (within-subjects). We also tested a model with reversed paths. Results indicate that momentary increases in distraction are not associated with depressive symptoms, however, increases in the latter were associated with more distraction. The relationship between distraction and depressive symptoms was mediated by difficulties controlling internet use, but only at the between-subjects level. This suggests that a higher average tendency to use the internet to distract oneself may work as an emotional buffer, with negative emotional consequences in the long run, an effect that takes time to completely unfold. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.
- Growth curve modeling
- Problematic internet use