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Increased social-network usage is associated with psychological distress and enhanced cyber security risks among individuals with impaired neural filtering ability of social-network information​

We suggest that individuals vary in their ability to control FB cues when such cues interfere with performing goal directed activities. Accordingly, the main premise of this research program is that enhanced FB usage would lead to increased anxious and depressive symptoms, mainly among individuals with impaired ability to filter potent FB information when this information is incongruent with one's goals. We further argue that an increased anxious and depressive state would be associated with greater self-disclosure web behavior, which exposes users to heightened cyber security threats. The present research proposal advances prior studies in developing a novel paradigm that directly isolates the online neural mechanism of filtering irrelevant FB information, and in measuring actual FB usage and psychological measures in the laboratory and in daily life across time. Accordingly, the present research program has two main goals that will be tested in two large studies (total n=240). We suggest that individuals vary in their ability to control FB cues when such cues interfere with performing goal directed activities. We further argue that an increased anxious and depressive state would be associated with greater self-disclosure web behavior, which exposes users to heightened cyber security threats

Our research proposal has two main advantages over prior studies: (A) We develop a novel paradigm that directly isolates the online neural mechanism of filtering irrelevant social network information, as opposed to prior findings involving overt behavior measures that can only be remotely associated with an underlying brain filtering process13-16. Importantly, we further evaluate the specificity of our underlying neural filtering predictor, by contrasting individuals’ ability to filter irrelevant FB information, with individuals’ ability to filter irrelevant general information (B) We measure actual FB usage (e.g., time spent and activities) in the laboratory and in daily life, as opposed to the majority of prior studies that evaluated FB usage relying exclusively on self-report measures that are susceptible to multiple biases. Accordingly, the present research program has two main goals that will be tested in two large studies each involving 120 participants (adopting 0.8 power level, alpha =.05 and medium effect size). Study 1 will examine the first main goal, predicting that the relationship between laboratory short-term enhanced FB usage and immediate anxious and depressive symptoms, will be mostly evident in individuals with impaired neural FB filtering ability. Study 2 will further show that among individuals with impaired neural FB filtering ability, enhanced FB usage in daily-life would lead to increased long-term anxious and depressive symptoms and self-disclosure web behavior that increases cyber risks ranging from cyber bullying to identity theft. Preliminary findings support the aforementioned conceptual logic of the proposal.

Expected benefits include shedding light on when and why certain individuals that excessively use social-networks, experience immediate and long-term maladaptive psychological consequences that also expose them to significant cyber security threats.

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