On 28 October 2013 Lukas Blinka will defence her doctoral thesis "The "good" and the "bad" of the internet: Studying subjective well-being as an outcome of young people's online practices" in the Council of the Faculty of the Social Sciences and Education.
professor Veronika Kalmus (University of Tartu)
senior research fellow Andra Siibak (University of Tartu)
senior lecturer David Smahel (Masaryk University)
professor Leen d'Haenens (University of Leuven, Belgium)
Teenagers have become the most prominent users of the Internet as they effortlessly incorporate the medium into their everyday lives. Due to the newness of the medium, only partially settled norms surrounding usage, and intensity with which the online space was adopted by the youth, much attention has been paid to dwell upon whether the usage of the Internet by the young people brings along positive or negative outcomes. The concept of well-being is used in the thesis to simultaneously look both at the positive and negative aspects of Internet use and to ask how these phenomena are related to young people's quality of life. The latter question is especially important as adolescence is the formative period in young people's development. The thesis looked at online practices - blogging as a positive side, and excessive Internet use as a problematic one - and how and in what condition they increase or decrease the well-being of the young. The findings suggest that both media choice and usage, as well as the well-being of the young Internet users, are framed by larger contextual factors - age and gender of the user; social environment (e.g. family and peer influence) and societal (cultural level) conditions individuals live in; and the structural characteristics of the medium or its applications. Hence, the thesis suggests that it is the context which creates and defines the positivity and negativity of certain outcomes of Internet usage. For instance, adolescent bloggers primarily stay truthful to their offline selves in their blogs, and hence the practice could be seen as a mechanism for maintaining one's identity and social contacts, but also as an opportunity to seek prestige and competence among the peer group. At the same time, revealing intimate details about one's life in a blog can also lead to possible negative consequences. Excessive Internet use among the young is related to psychological distress and the time spent online but also to one's digital skills and the activities one engages in online. Hence, on the one hand, excessive Internet use may be a coping strategy, especially for more expert young users of the medium, as it offers a wide range of opportunities for mood management and entertainment; on the other hand, it may have negative outcomes on one's well-being in the long run.