Do you get frustrated and angry when your WiFi connection stops working? When digital technology stops working, people with a fear of missing out, FOMO – the anxiety that you’re missing a social experience others might be having while you’re not online – or an internet addiction have more extreme reactions, according to a study published in Elsevier’s open access journal Heliyon.
The researchers behind the study, psychologists Dr Lee Hadlington and Dr Mark Scase from De Montfort University in the UK, also show that certain personality traits directly influence people’s responses to failures in digital technology: people who were seen as being more neurotic and extroverted had more extreme reactions to failures in digital technology.
“The ‘frustration’ response is one of the things we all experience on a daily basis, so it seemed to be a logical step in our research,” said lead author Hadlington.
“Much of the existing research on this topic is from the 1940s – you could say that this research is the first of its kind to actually explore how individual react to failures with digital technology, and more importantly, places this in the context of the modern digital era.”
If something goes wrong with digital technology that prevents us from being online, we will react in different ways.
‘Maladaptive’ responses include getting angry, panicking or feeling depressed; these responses are not only unhelpful, they have also been shown to have a detrimental impact on productivity and achieving goals, and can therefore lead to poor job performance.
If the digital technology failure is due to a malicious cyberattack, this could affect many people and businesses, so it’s important to understand the responses in order to limit the negative effects.
“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.
In the study, 630 participants aged 18-68 completed an online questionnaire in which they self-reported their responses to failures in digital technology, fear of missing out, internet addiction and answered questions that scored them on the BIG-5 personality traits: extraversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness and neuroticism
The results showed that the fear of missing out, internet addiction, extroversion and neuroticism all have a significantly positive influence on maladaptive responses, meaning the people most psychologically dependent on digital technology are most likely to have maladaptive responses when it goes wrong.
They also showed a link between age and response: as age increases, the level of frustration that a person experiences decreases.
“The more we use our devices, the more we get attached to them, so when they don’t work, we tend to just go a little bit ‘crazy’ or just switch off and stop doing things altogether,” said Hadlington. “But there are things people can do when technology fails to make their lives a lot easier – extreme reactions only make things worse.”
End-user frustrations and failures in digital technology: exploring the role of Fear of Missing Out, Internet addiction and personality
The present study aimed to explore the potential relationship between individual differences in responses to failures with digital technology. In total, 630 participants (50% male) aged between 18–68 years (M = 41.41, SD = 14.18) completed an online questionnaire.
This included a self-report, response to failures in digital technology scale, a measure of Fear of Missing Out, Internet addiction, and the BIG-5 personality traits. Fear of Missing Out, Internet addiction, extraversion, and neuroticism all served as significant positive predictors for maladaptive responses to failures in digital technology. Agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness acted as significant negative predictors for maladaptive responses to failures in digital technology.
The responses to failures in digital technology scale presented good internal reliability, with items loading onto four key factors, these being; ‘maladaptive responses’, ‘adaptive responses’, ‘external support and venting frustrations’, and ‘anger and resignation’.
The findings are discussed in the context of the end user experience, particularly where individual differences are seen to influence the level of frustration arising from a failure. The findings are also seen as a potential route for reducing the negative impact of failures in digital technology, particularly in the context of organisational productivity and responses to malicious cyberattacks.People with Internet addiction react the worst when WiFi fails End-user frustrations and failures in digital technology: exploring the role of Fear of Missing Out, Internet addiction and personality