Uses and Gratifications and Internet Profiles:
A Factor Analysis
Part 3

BY SHARON A. ANGLEMAN
ARKANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY, DECEMBER 2000


WHAT INNER NEEDS MIGHT CONTROL OR INFLUENCE INTERNET USE?

Interactivity is certainly one of the unique characteristics of the Internet. Users have an almost endless choice of interactive media available. We can price, or even purchase automobiles, read a book, chat, file income tax forms, shop, enjoy music, pay bills, order checks, browse museums or keep up to date on the entertainment industry. Of course, some individuals are interested in only news, and others, only daytime soap operas. Each group has a unique use for their media and through its use they are satisfying a need for a particular type of stimuli. Information relating to the uses and motives of Internet users can be helpful in building profiles and predicting behaviors. Applications for use of this data could be advantageous in a number of areas, including marketing, design, education and psychology.

Human motivation is centered on a system of interrelated needs (Suler, 1999). In some of his research about healthy and pathological Internet use, Suler outlines several basic human needs that may influence a userís choice of media:

    • The need for altered state of consciousness
    • The need for achievement and mastery
    • The need to belong
    • Intimate and sexual needs
    • The need for relationships
    • The need for self-actualization and transcendence of self
    • The need for spirituality

All of these needs interact to motivate a userís behavior and habits. Activities on the Internet vary greatly and address a large array of needs, and the motives driving the exchange and receiving of data can vary just as much (Newhagen & Rafaeli, 1996). Because of the number of motivators and their complex relation to one another, research can be difficult. Needs often overlap and interact forming complex networks (Suler, 1999). These networks, however, may be the key to understanding usersí adoption of the Internet and its social and psychological effects.

Understanding why the Internet is used can certainly shed some light on the Internetís effect. In 1998, researchers found that Internet use had a direct effect on the communicative structures within 73 households. Usage was accompanied by a greater sense of isolation and depression and reduced communications within the family (Kraut et al., 1998). Considering the Internet is often regarded as a social tool, serving to connect and create communities and ideas, the often-observed results are curious. The initial choice or motivator for Internet usage cannot explain the observed effects.

Wallace (1999) writes that people having the strong internal locus of control are prime candidates for buyers and sellers in online auctions because of the power they gain by cutting out the middleman and negotiating their own deals. During an interview, William Gibson (who coined the term "cyberspace") told Wallace that he avoided the Internet and e-mail for years, but was eventually bitten by the auction bug and began purchasing antique timepieces. In talking about his experience, he told Wallace:

"What if someone else got this watch, this watch Iíd never seen before but which I now, somehow, was emotional invested in wining? I began to have some sense of power over the psychology of auctions, something I hadnít really had before" (Wallace, 1999).

 

A virtual environment invites discovery. We discover things that couldnít be done before. We are able to express ideas that couldnít be expressed before (Pimentel & Teixeira, 1993). We are able to accelerate through time as we skip through hypertext (Heim, 1993). When we are immersed in the graphics and hypertext of cyberspace, we feel ourselves moving through an independent interface, through a world with its own dimensions and rules (Heim). Wallace (1999) suggests that we are "enamored" by the Internet because of the control it seems to give us and its "style of empowerment."

In The Metaphysics of Virtual Reality, Heim (1993) writes that the hypertext of the Internet "emulates a divine access to all things and knowledge; that users, empowered by hypertext, feel as if they are reveling in intuitive, associational thinking." In referring to work by Kimberly Young, Wallace concludes the Internet does, indeed, consist of "strong, compelling psychological spaces" (Wallace,1999). As we travel these places, we "peer through an electronic framework where our symbols -- words, data, simulations -- come under our precise control, things appear with startling clarity; [We] travel endlessly, without limits " (Heim, 1993).

Wallace (1999) suggests further that individuals who have a strong internal locus of control may be especially susceptible to the allure of the Internet. The ability to control seems to be the most appealing psychological aspect of the Internet. Why else would we spend so much time logging onto a network, looking up an Internet address, fighting server interruptions and watching slow downloads just to put in a request to our broker, when all along we had a telephone and the brokerís direct phone number on our desk? (Wallace).

Is it possible we avoid the telephone because we think its process is outside of our control? After all, we cannot control when it rings, or who is calling or what type of conversation waits at the other end. Our telephone numbers are distributed in unmerciful ways, leaving us prey to the persistence of another magazine/credit card/insurance/telephone service salesperson. And is it possible that we have a somewhat smug, pretentious air about us when we avoid the ringing phone after checking the Caller ID?


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Feel free to cite material in this study, but please provide this reference:
     Angleman, S. (December, 2000). Uses and Gratifications and Internet Profiles: A Factor Analysis. Is Internet Use and Travel to Cyberspace Reinforced by Unrealized Gratifications? Paper presented at the Western Science Social Association 2001 Conference held in Reno, NV. <http://www.jrily.com/LiteraryIllusions/InternetGratificationStudyIndex.html> (date of access).

Complete factor analysis and other detailed data is available upon request (SPSS format, IBM)). For information or comments concerning this study, please contact, Sharon Angleman at sharon@jrily.com Visit my home site at http://www.jrily.com/LiteraryIllusions/ for other journalistic materials.