Why People With Internet Addiction React Worse When Wifi Fails

By Paul Gaita 11/14/18

Researchers explored the reaction to digital technology failure in people with internet addiction for a recent study.

businessman with internet addiction getting angry because wifi failed

When the Wifi loses its connectivity, or the movie we're streaming buffers endlessly—when the digital technology by which we have come to expect as part of our daily lives fails, our response to this interruption can take a variety of forms, from mild annoyance to more extreme or "maladaptive" reactions, including anger, panic and depression.

What determines our response, according to a new study, may be dependent on our psychological makeup. Researchers found that participants who expressed a "maladaptive" response to digital technology failure also showed signs of extroversion, neuroticism, internet addiction and a pervasive "fear of missing out" (FOMO).

Understanding what provokes these responses may help provide better support for such individuals, researchers suggest.

In the study—published in the November edition of Heliyon—researchers from De Montfort University in Leicester, England engaged 630 participants, all between the ages of 18 and 68, in an online questionnaire that examined their responses to digital technology failure.

Participants self-reported how they responded such incidents, as well as their attitudes towards "fear of missing out" and internet addiction. The study authors also measured responses in regard to the BIG-5 personality traits: conscientiousness, extraversion-introversion, agreeableness, openness and neuroticism.

The researchers found that those participants whose responses indicated extroversion and neuroticism, and who expressed positive responses towards FOMO or symptoms of internet addiction also exhibited more signs of a maladaptive response towards digital technology failure. They also noted a correlation between age and level of response: specifically, as Science Daily noted, as age increased, a person's level of frustration decreased.

A frustrated response to technological failure is normal, according to study co-author Dr. Lee Hadlington. "[It's] one of the things we all experience on a daily basis, so it seemed to be a logical step in our research."

But with technology playing a more significant role in our lives with each new development, our dependency on those devices to make our lives function also grows.

"When they don't work, we tend to just go a little bit 'crazy' or just switch off and stop doing things altogether," Hadlington noted.

Determining what provokes extreme responses in certain individuals may help make their lives more manageable.

"If we can understand what leads individuals to react in certain ways, and why these differences occur, we can hopefully make sure that when digital technology does fail, people are better supported and there are relevant signposts for them to follow to get help," said Hadlington. "Extreme reactions only make things worse."

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.