The Impact of Internet Experiences on Embarrassment

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Tucciarone, Joseph, Jr.
thesis / dissertation description
Media technology (e.g., Internet via social networking, email, and texting) has changed the way we interact with one another. For instance, the more time college students spend communicating on Facebook, the less time they spend socializing in face-to-face settings. Although studies have predominantly examined Internet experiences of college students in general, specific attention has also been paid to Internet experiences of shy and socially anxious individuals. Prior research suggests that individuals who fear social rejection prefer the anonymous nature of the Internet (Shepherd & Edelmann, 2005). Additionally, shy and socially anxious individuals seem to prefer online relationships to in-person relationships, although they have fewer Facebook friends than those without impairment (Orr et a]., 2009). It is possible that the anonymity of the Internet might lessen fears of embarrassment typically experienced by shy individuals. To date, no research has explored the impact of technology on embarrassment for any population. The current study investigated differences in levels of embarrassment during face-to-face interactions compared to online interactions. Participants responded to either hypothetical in-person or Internet scenarios that described an embarrassing situation. The impact on both shy and non-shy individuals was investigated. Results indicated that face-to-face social mistakes were more embarrassing than online interactions in general. Socially anxious individuals found awkward and uncomfoitable situations more embarrassing than did those without anxiety.