Although physical isolation measures can stem the spread of COVID-19, they can also heighten individuals’ perceived isolation and feeling of loneliness, resulting in problematic internet use (PIU). However, studies have rarely investigated both the effects of physical and perceived isolation on PIU. Given the widespread availability and accessibility of digital communication technologies, it is difficult to conclude that the former may necessitate the latter inducing PIU. Using a two-wave longitudinal national survey in Singapore (n = 689), this study found that, at Time 1, both physical and perceived social isolation have direct and independent effects on internet users’ preference for online social interaction (POSI), driving PIU. This, in turn, leads to their experience of negative outcomes at Time 2. The results highlight the importance of considering the independent effects of physical and perceived isolation in affecting POSI leading to PIU.
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- Social isolation
- physical isolation
- problematic internet use