Internet altruistic behavior and subjective well-being: Self-efficacy as a mediator
Xianliang Zheng and Yaqin Wang, (Gannan Normal University), and Lei Xu, (Shanghai Normal University), 2016, 44(9), 1575–1584

The anonymity of the Internet is a contributing factor to the development of practices such as online trolling (i.e., pranking, harassing, or threatening people on online forums). With up to 70% of 18- to 24-year-olds who use the Internet having experienced this form of harassment (Pew Research Center, 2014, as cited in Stein, 2016*), learning at an early age to engage in positive behaviors when using the Internet would have at least one main active benefit: teenagers and young adults would be able to employ tools such as altruism to counteract the harmful effects of trolling. As a further passive benefit, the incidence of trolling may decrease as the acceptability of such behavior is reduced among young people who are instead focusing on ways to achieve positive online behaviors and experiences.

In this study Zheng, Wang, and Xu recruited a sample of middle-school students aged between 12 and 16 years, and examined the relationships between the positive behaviors of online altruism, self-efficacy, and subjective well-being. These authors observed that performing more altruistic behaviors when using the Internet appeared to predispose the students to having greater subjective well-being and higher self-efficacy. Further, self-efficacy partially mediated the relationship between Internet altruistic behavior and subjective well-being.

The suggestion by Zheng et al. that educators could use their findings to “encourage and guide students to perform altruistic behaviors in cyberspace” (p. 1581) makes a lot of sense to me. Learning how to cultivate positive online behaviors, including altruism and self-efficacy, at an early age sets a good precedent for carrying these behaviors over to the later stages of life. In addition, this mindset can extend beyond online interactions to improve in-person relationships, which, in turn, leads to positive outcomes such as enhanced subjective well-being. I am watching with interest to see where the authors take this research direction in their future work.

 

*Stein, J. (2016, August 18). How trolls are ruining the Internet. Time. Retrieved from http://time.com/4457110/internet-trolls/

 

Sarah Krivan | Copyeditor
Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal