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The study investigated the influence of shyness and body dysmorphism on internet addiction among undergraduates. Six hundred and forty undergraduates were recruited as participants in the present study from two tertiary institutions (university of uyo and Akwa Ibom State university) consisting of 307 males and 337 females. Their age range range were from 18- 45 and their mean age was 38.5. A cross sectional design was adopted for the study. Three instruments were used in the study: Shyness Scale (SS) developed by Richmond and McCroskey (1998), Internet Addiction Test (IAT) developed by Young in 1957 and Dysmorphic Concern Questionnaire developed by Salovey (1998). A two way Analyses of Variance (ANOVA) was used to analyse the data. The result showed that there is a significant influence of shyness on internet addiction among undergraduates [F (1, 640) = 20.66, p < .05].  The result also revealed that there is a significant influence of Body Dysmorphism on internet addiction among undergraduates [F (1, 640) = 33.19, p < .05].The result also revealed that there is no interaction influence between Shyness and Body Dysmorphism on internet addiction among undergraduates. It was therefore concluded that shyness and body dysmorphism are predictors of internet addiction among undergraduates. Implications and recommendations for future study were made.


1.1 Background to the study

Internet addiction has contributed a lot of problem over the years especially among undergraduates since they are the ones who use sophisticated phones mostly these days. Internet addiction result in personal, family, academic, financial, and occupational problem that are characteristic of other addictions. Impairments of real life relationships are disrupted as a result of excessive use of the internet.  Individuals suffering from Internet addiction spend more time in solitary seclusion, spend less time with real people in their lives, and are often viewed as socially awkward. Arguments may result due to the volume of time spent on-line. Those suffering from internet addiction may attempt to conceal the amount of time spent on-line, which results in distrust and the disturbance of quality in once stable relationships. Some suffering from Internet addiction may create on-line personas or profiles where they are able to alter their identities and pretend to be someone other than himself or herself. Those at highest risk for creation of a secret life are those who suffer from low-self- esteem feelings of inadequacy, and fear of disapproval.  Such negative self-concepts lead to clinical problems of depression and anxiety. Many persons who attempt to quit their Internet use experience withdrawal including: anger, depression, relief, mood swings, anxiety, fear, irritability, sadness, loneliness, boredom, restlessness, procrastination, and upset stomach.  Being addicted to the Internet can also cause physical discomfort or medical problems such as: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, dry eyes, backaches, severe headaches, eating irregularities, (such as skipping meals), failure to attend to personal hygiene, and sleep disturbance.

              Internet addiction disorder, more commonly called problematic Internet use (PIU), (Moreno, Jelenchick & Christakis, 2013) refers to excessive Internet use that interferes with daily life (Byun, Ruffini, Mills, Juline, Douglas, Niang, Stepchenkova, Lee, Loutfi, Lee, Atallah & Blanton, 2009).

      Internet addiction disorder was originally proposed as a disorder in a satirical hoax (Goldberg, 1995; Beato, 2010), although some later researchers have taken his essay seriously. He used this term because it was a suitable fit to his parody. This idea he conjured was to demonstrate the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders handbook’s complexity and rigidity. Among the symptoms he included in this parody were “important social or occupational activities that are given up or reduced because of the internet use”, “fantasies or dreams about the internet” and “voluntary or involuntary typing movements of the fingers”. (Wallis, 2016).

Goldberg himself has redefined Internet Addiction Disorder as a “pathological Internet use disorder” (also known as PIU) to avoid what he started as a joke to be thought of as an officially diagnosed addiction, such as an addiction to heroin. Goldberg mentioned that to receive medical attention or support for every behavior by putting it in to psychiatric nomenclature is ridiculous. Goldberg added if every overdone behavior can be an addiction that would lead us to have support groups for individuals that consistently cough or are addicted to books (Wallis & David, 2016). He took pathological gambling, as diagnosed by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), as his model for the description of IAD. (Internet Addictive Disorder (IAD) Diagnostic Criteria, 2009) Internet Addiction Disorder receives coverage in the press, and the possible future classification of it as a psychological disorder continues to be debated and researched in the psychiatric community (Block, 2008). A systematic review of Pathological Internet Use literature identified the lack of standardization in the concept as a major impediment to advancing this area of study. (Moreno, 2011). “Other online habits such as reading, playing computer games, or watching very large numbers of Internet videos are troubling only to the extent that these activities interfere with normal life.  Internet Addiction Disorder is often divided into subtypes by activity, such as gaming; online social networking, (Masters, 2015); blogging; email; excessive, overwhelming, or inappropriate Internet pornography use; (Turel & Serenko, 2010), or Internet shopping (shopping addiction). (eBay Addiction, 2014) Opponents note that compulsive behaviors may not necessarily be addictive. (PsychCentral, 2018).      

Internet addiction is a subset of a broader “technology addiction”. Widespread obsession with technology goes back at least to radio in the 1930s and television in the 1960s, but it has exploded in importance during the digital age (Rosen et al, 2012).  A study published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking (2014) suggests that prevalence of Internet addiction varies considerably among countries and is inversely related to quality of life (Cheng & Li, 2014). 

      Shyness is the awkwardness or apprehension some people feel when approaching or being approached by other people. Unlike introverts, who feel energized by time alone, shy people often desperately want to connect with others, but don’t know how or can’t tolerate the anxiety that comes with human interaction. This commonly occurs in new situations or with unfamiliar people. Shyness can be a characteristic of people who have low self-esteem. Stronger forms of shyness are usually referred to as social anxiety or social phobia. The primary defining characteristic of shyness is a largely ego-driven fear of what other people will think of a person’s behavior. This result in a person becoming scared of doing or saying what they want to out of fear of negative reactions, being laughed at, humiliated or patronised, criticism or rejection. A shy person may simply opt to avoid social situations instead (Byun & colleagues, 2009).

One important aspect of shyness is social skills development. Schools and parents may implicitly assume children are fully capable of effective social interaction. Social skills training is not given any priority (unlike reading and writing) and as a result, shy students are not given an opportunity to develop their ability to participate in class and interact with peers. Teachers can model social skills and ask questions in a less direct and intimidating manner in order to gently encourage shy students to speak up in class, and make friends with other children (Byun & colleagues, 2009).

         The initial cause of shyness varies. Scientists believe that they have located genetic data supporting the hypothesis that shyness is, at least, partially genetic. However, there is also evidence that suggests the environment in which a person is raised can also be responsible for their shyness. This includes child abuse, particularly emotional abuse such as ridicule. Shyness can originate after a person has experienced a physical anxiety reaction; at other times, shyness seems to develop first and then later causes physical symptoms of anxiety. Shyness differs from social anxiety, which is a broader, often depression -related psychological condition including the experience of fear, apprehension or worrying about being evaluated by others in social situations to the extent of inducing panic. Shyness may come from genetic traits, the environment in which a person is raised and personal experiences. Shyness may be a personality trait or can occur at certain stages of development in children.

            The term shyness may be implemented as a lay blanket-term for a family of related and partially overlapping afflictions, including timidity (apprehension in meeting new people), bashfulness and diffidence (reluctance in asserting oneself), apprehension and anticipation (general fear of potential interaction), or intimidation (relating to the object of fear rather than one’s low confidence), (Dictionary.reference, 2018).

 Apparent shyness, as perceived by others, may simply be the manifestation of reservation or introversion, character traits which cause an individual to voluntarily avoid excessive social contact or be terse in communication, but are not motivated or accompanied by discomfort, apprehension, or lack of confidence. Rather, according to professor of psychology Bernardo J. Carducci, introverts choose to avoid social situations because they derive no reward from them or may find surplus sensory input overwhelming, whereas shy people may fear such situations (Whitten, 2001).  Research using the statistical techniques of factor analysis and correlation has found shyness overlaps mildly with both introversion and neuroticism (i.e., negative emotionality) (Crazier, 1979; Heiser, Turner & Beidel 2003; Shiner & Caspi, 2003) Low societal acceptance of shyness or introversion may reinforce a shy or introverted individual’s low self-confidence (Cain, 2012).  Both shyness and introversion can outwardly manifest with socially withdrawn behaviors, such as tendencies to avoid social situations, especially when they are unfamiliar. A variety of research suggests that shyness and introversion possess clearly distinct motivational forces and lead to uniquely different personal and peer reactions and therefore cannot be described as theoretically the same, (Coplan, Rose-Krasnor, Weeks, Kingsbury, Kingsbury & Bullock, 2012;  Asendorpf  & Meier 1993; Chen,Wang & Cao, 2011;  Susan, 2012) further discerning introversion as involving being differently social (preferring one-on-one or small group interactions) rather than being anti -social altogether (Cornish, 2012).

Research suggests that no unique physiological response, such as an increased heart- beat, accompanies socially withdrawn behavior in familiar compared with unfamiliar social situations. But unsociability leads to decreased exposure to unfamiliar social situations and shyness causes a lack of response in such situations, suggesting that shyness and unsociability affect two different aspects of sociability and are distinct personality traits (Susan, 2012).  In addition, different cultures perceive unsociability and shyness in different ways, leading to either positive or negative individual feelings of self-esteem. Collectivist cultures view shyness as a more positive trait related to compliance with group ideals and self-control, while perceiving chosen isolation (introverted behavior) negatively as a threat to group harmony; and because collectivist society accepts shyness and rejects unsociability, shy individuals develop higher self-esteem than introverted individuals (Chen, Wang & Cao, 2011).  On the other hand, individualistic cultures perceive shyness as a weakness and a character flaw, while unsociable personality traits (preference to spend time alone) are accepted because they uphold the value of autonomy; accordingly, shy individuals tend to develop low self-esteem in Western cultures while unsociable individuals develop high self-esteem (Coplan, Rose-Krasnor, Weeks, Kingsbury, Kingsbury & Bullock, 2012).

          Those considered shy are also said to be socially inhibited. Social inhibition is the conscious or unconscious constraint by a person of behavior of a social nature. In other words, social inhibition is holding back for social reasons. There are different levels of social inhibition, from mild to severe. Being socially inhibited is good when preventing one from harming another and bad when causing one to refrain from participating in class discussions.

Behavioral inhibition is a temperament or personality style that predisposes a person to become fearful, distressed and withdrawn in novel situations. This personality style is associated with the development of anxiety disorders in adulthood, particularly social anxiety disorder (Ordoñez-Ortega, Espinosa-Fernandez, Garcia-Lopez & Muela-Martinez, 2013).  So due to these assumptions undergraduate that are shy is predicted to be a predictor of Internet addiction.

The concept of Body dysmorphic disorder is a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder. An individual with body dysmorphic disorder is overly preoccupied with what are perceived as gross imperfections in their appearance and spends an hour or more, every day, thinking about the way they look. In reality, the imperfections are imagined or only slight and barely noticed by others, if at all. The affected person may be obsessed with certain body parts, particularly related to their face or head, or with their weight or body shape.

     The symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder often begin in the early teens or even childhood, and are all related to the person’s appearance. They include constantly checking their look in the mirror, excessive grooming, over-exercising, skin picking, or hair plucking—and comparing themselves to others. In addition to an extreme obsession with their looks, people with body dysmorphic disorder try to hide their perceived flaws by holding their body in certain ways, covering up with make-up or clothing, or somehow improving their imagined defects, sometimes with multiple plastic surgeries or other cosmetic practices. Even when steps are taken to make improvements, however, the person is still unhappy with their appearance. The obsession, repetitive behavior, and constant covering up create stress for the affected individual and can have a negative impact on daily functioning and quality of life. Major depression is common in those with body dysmorphic disorder, as are suicidal thoughts and behavior.  Individuals with body dysmorphic disorder often have a history of child abuse or neglect or other childhood trauma and may also have a parent or sibling with an anxiety disorder. Research into a neurobiological connection is still in early stages. Those with the condition may also have an anxiety disorder, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder or social anxiety, a personality disorder, or issues with substance abuse. Body dysmorphic disorder is not an eating disorder, though both conditions exhibit similarly severe and abnormal body image concerns and self-esteem issues. Men and women are equally affected by this disorder. So due to the fact these people saw themselves inappropriate this study would predict that internet may be the only place they derived happiness and gain acceptance.

      Many predictors of internet addiction disorder are discovered by many researchers, however this research would be considering if shyness and body dysmorphism has an influence on internet addiction among undergraduates.

1.2 Statement of Problem

Over the years, internet addiction has caused great threat to the society especially among undergraduates. It results in personal, family, academic, financial, and occupational problems that are characteristic of other addictions. Impairments of real life relationships are disrupted as a result of excessive use of the Internet. Studies conducted on the students show that internet addiction has been accompanied by major problems such as the educational drop, reduced the curriculum study, anxiety, reduced interpersonal relationships, reduced physical activities, irregularity, and nutritional diseases (Maheri, Joveini, Bahrami, Sadeghi, 2013, Sepehrian & Joka, 2011) Also it has been shown that internet addiction may have serious consequences such as changing the lifestyle in order to spend more time on the internet, ignoring the individual health and main activities, reducing the social relationships, ignoring the family and friends, and finally, financial, educational, and physical problems (Ahmadi, Zadeh, Mohammadi, Masoum-beigi & Sohrabi, 2012).

1.3 Research Questions

            However, following this lime light the following questions would be used to ascertain if shyness and body dysmorphism have influence on internet addiction among undergraduates.

This material content is developed to serve as a GUIDE for students to conduct academic research

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