How Maladaptive Cognitions Contribute to the Development of Problematic Social Media Use (2020)

Addict Behav Rep . 2020 Feb 21;11:100267.

doi: 10.1016/j.abrep.2020.100267. eCollection 2020 Jun.

Giulia Fioravanti  1 Gordon Flett  2 Paul Hewitt  3 Laura Rugai  1 Silvia Casale  1


The current study investigates the effects of perfectionism discrepancies (PD) and social hopelessness (SH) on problematic social media use as conceptualized by the cognitive-behavioral model.

Methods: A sample of 400 university students (52.3% women; mean age = 22.01 ± 1.99) completed measures assessing PD, SH, and problematic social media use.

Results: Structural equation modeling showed that both social hopelessness and feeling discrepant from personal and prescribed standards predicted the preference for online social interactions (POSI). POSI predicted the motivation to use online social media as a means of alleviating distressing feelings, the inability to regulate social media use and the negative outcomes resulting from use of SNS.

Conclusions: In line with the cognitive-behavioral model of problematic Internet use, the present study suggests the primary importance of maladaptive cognitions about the self (i.e. perfectionism discrepancies) and the world (i.e. social hopelessness) for the development of a preference for online social interactions. In particular, the present study shows that individuals are likely to opt for online social interactions as a function of their pessimistic social expectancies and the sense of inadequacy that comes from perceptions of falling short of expectations.

Keywords: Maladaptive cognitions; Perfectionism discrepancies; Preference for online social interactions; Social hopelessness; Social media problematic use.