Universität Zürich

IKMZ - Department of Communication and Media Research

Media Change & Innovation Division

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From use to overuse: Digital inequality in the age of communication abundance


Gui, Marco /

Moritz Büchi

Social Science Computer Review [Online first]. https://doi.org/10.1177/0894439319851163

https://doi.org/10.1177/0894439319851163 Public discourse about overuse as an undesired side effect of digital communication is growing. This article conceptually develops and empirically analyzes users’ perceived digital overuse (PDO) as a widespread social phenomenon sensitive to existing inequalities. In an age of digital communication abundance and closing Internet access divides, overuse has not been systematically investigated nor are its social disparities known. In a first step, PDO is demarcated from Internet addiction, theoretically defined, and operationalized. Then, the prevalence of perceived overuse is assessed in a representative population sample of Italian Internet users (N = 2,008) and predictors of digital overuse are tested. Results show that digital communication use and the level of social pressure to function digitally are positively related to PDO. Education is negatively associated with PDO and positively with digital communication use and social digital pressure. Overuse is emerging as a new dimension of digital inequality with implications for theory and future research in digital well-being.