Social anxiety in the digital age: The measurement and sequelae of online safety-seeking
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Online communication is essential to modern life, but its features may also afford socially anxious individuals the ability to conceal themselves, or parts of themselves, from evaluation by others. In this way, Internet-based social interaction may function as a form of safety behavior for socially anxious people seeking to avoid face-to-face encounters. To enhance our understanding of how social anxiety manifests online and examine the nature and impact of safety behaviors within online social contexts, we developed the Seeking Online Safety Questionnaire (SOSQ). The SOSQ measures the degree to which specific features of online communication contribute to the perception of interpersonal safety in online contexts. We explored the measure's factor structure and psychometric properties in a sample of 374 participants who completed the online survey through Mechanical Turk. Exploratory factor analysis suggested two correlated factors: control over self-presentation, and control over personal information. The SOSQ showed good convergent validity, such that as each of the SOSQ factors and total score increased, so too did participants' trait social anxiety, concerns about self-attribute flaws, fear of negative evaluation, and use of offline safety behaviors. Regression analyses demonstrated that control over online self-presentation explained unique variance in social anxiety symptoms and fear of negative evaluation over and above control over personal information. Results expand our understanding of social anxiety-driven safety behaviors in online contexts, which have important implications for conceptualizing the nature and treatment of social anxiety.
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Somayyeh Kamalou, Krystelle Shaughnessy, David A. Moscovitch (2019). Social anxiety in the digital age: The measurement and sequelae of online safety-seeking. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/14088
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