I would like to take this opportunity to thank my supervisor for his help, guidance and insight. I would also like to thank the participants in the experiment, who gave many hours of their time to help with my research. To my family, who have endured my unending studentship, and to those who have listened and advised I am deeply indebted.
The aim of this study is to determine the effectiveness of the expressive writing protocol (Pennebaker & Beall, 1986) in the form of blogs of the general well-being (Fazio, 1977) of the participants and to examine the correlation with the personality traits of neuroticism, psychoticism and extroversion as measured by the EPQ-R (Eysenck & Eysenck, 1975) along with social anxiety, as measured by the FNE scale (Watson & Friend, 1969). Participants (N = 32) were randomly assigned to one of three experimental groups of control, diary and blog and took part in a repeated measure experiment to examine the difference in GWB scores pre and post taking part in an expressive writing task. This experiment was conducted online with a set of electronic survey and use of an online blogging service. The independent variables of Sex, Age, Emotional Disclosure Style Group (Personal or Work), Internet usage demographics, Intervention Type (Control, Blog, Diary) were compared and correlated with the dependent variable of GWB. It was found that there is no significant difference in GWB scores between those who took part in the intervention and those who did not. Neuroticism was shown to have a strong correlation with GWB and FNE. It was concluded that for the general population blogging has neither a positive nor negative effect on GWB.
The internet has become an important tool in work and social arenas with blogging and social networking growing hugely in the past number of years. Thirty six percent of time online is spent talking and sharing with some 40 million users regularly contributing (Netpop, 2008). Forrester (2008) identifies a ladder of social technology use containing creators, critics, collectors, joiners and spectators, all of whom interact in social media with some 38% of 18-24 year olds in the US creating content and this trend continues into the late thirties with some 29% of the 25-34 demographic creating content online. Blogging is defined as “the creation of journal entries that are shared in an online format, that are of chronological order and can be about a single theme or the many personal thoughts of the author.” This research replicates this generation of content by creators, in the form of blogs, in an experiment that ties together health, expressive writing, internet-related and personality research to identify if a form of self-directed therapy is already being used on a daily basis by those who engage in blogging. Schmidt (2007) defines blogs as individual usage episodes that are framed by three structural dimensions of rules, relations and code which produce social interaction. Blogs are groups of people who share certain routines and blogs act as tools for information, identity and relationship management. Blanchard (2004) queries if a blog is a virtual community and found a moderate sense of community at best exists. Blogs can be seen as confessional where writers seek repentance, validation and virtual absolution as proposed by Jayson (2007) or as Raacke and Bonds-Raacke (2008) suggests as a means of forming new social bonds and fulfilling social needs. Blogging is convenient, affordable, allows presentation of multi-mediated self, allows engaging in establishing a sense of self,
self-expression, and the sustenance of a mode of social existence. Motives for the creation of a blog can come from a dialogical process and social act of positioning with the following of a pathway across time and space forming the identity of a person (Hevern, 2004). Personality, in the form of the EPQ-R questionnaire, Eysenck and Eysenck (1975), and social anxiety, in the form of Fear of Negative Evaluation (FNE), developed by Watson and Friend (1969) will be correlated with general well-being (GWB) measures detailed by Fazio (1977). These three factors will be measured while participants take part in an expressive writing protocol, mirroring the work carried out by Pennebaker and Beall (1986). This form of expressive writing is carried out in the form of a blog and pen and paper diary. The areas of general health and its relation to technology, expressive writing, forums and internet-based research, usage of blogs, the correlates of personality and its relation to technology, social anxiety and its correlation with internet-usage and general well-being are outlined below to guide the current research. The expressive writing protocol has been shown to be an effective intervention in a wide range of situations. There has been little research, however with regard to the specific use of blogging and its use as a self-directed form of intervention for the general user. The benefits, uses and issues related to expressive writing are discussed below. Pennebaker
(2004), Pennebaker and Chung (2007) discuss the various levels at which the expressive writing paradigm works in terms of cognitive, emotional, social and biological factors that act via a cascade of effects to improve health. Horowitz (2008) sees it as a low-risk modality which has been shown to work successfully in various settings. As Lepore (1997) notes, expressive writing doesn’t affect the frequency of intrusive thoughts but moderates the impact of them on depressive symptoms, this meaning making decreases discrepancy between situational meaning and more global meanings, Park and Blumberg (2002) and can be thought in terms of accommodation, assimilation and confrontation, Schoutrop, Lange et
al (1997) aiding physical and psychological health (Baikie & Wilhelm, 2005). Sloan and Marx (2004) report that work is required to determine who written disclosure works for best but research carried out by Batten, Follette et al (2002) on sexual abuse victims, Possemato (2007) on kidney patients, Baikie (2008) on students high in Alexithymia and Nicholls (1998) on optimistic students indicates that expressive writing has a wide range of potential beneficiaries. Investigation has also been carried out that shows that certain population samples such as Poets, Kaufman and Sexton (2006) and elderly, Weatherbee (2006) have reduced benefit from such tasks. Physical health can be aided by expressive writing as noted by Petrie, Booth and Pennebaker (1998), Symth (1998), and Sheese, Brown and Graziano, (2004) improving reported physical health, physiological functioning and general functioning. Expressive writing can help patients to control pain, Graham, Lobal, Glass and Lokshina (2008) decrease asthma symptoms, Warner, Lumley et al (2006), increase working memory, Kleins and Boals (2001) and generally reduce health care utilisation. Frisina (2004) carried out a meta-anaylsis of writing disclosure research and determined that health benefits are more effective on physical than psychological health outcomes. However much research has been carried out with regard to trauma patients such as Barton and Jackson (2008) with regard to carers of psychotic patients, Synder, Gordon and Baucom (2004) in terms of relationship trauma, Lange, van de Ven et al (2000), Deters and Range (2003) in terms of post-traumatic stress disorder, giving clear indication that there are many psychological benefits of the expressive writing protocol. The protocol has benefits in dealing with job loss, Soper and Von Berger (2001), stress, Zabowski, Ramati et al (2004), chronic avoidance, Swanbon, Boyce and Greenberg (2008), examinations, Lumley and Provenzano (2003) and general upsetting events such as those detailed in Mosher and Danoff-burg (2006), Langens and Schuler, (2007). Speaking of negative life events and greater brooding and rumination actually has a positive effect on reducing depressive symptoms and is illustrated in
Lyubomirsky, Sousa, Dickerhoof (2006) and Sloan, Marx, Epstein and Dobbs (2008). Graf (2004), Graf, Gaudiano and Geller (2008) show that there is reduction in anxiety, depressive symptoms, greater progress in psychotherapy, increased life functioning, greater satisfaction with treatments and a decrease in stress symptoms. Finally expressive writing compares favourably and surpasses other techniques such as relaxation training as discussed in Kraft, Lumley, D’Souza and Dooley (2008). As alluded to in Kallay, Vaida, Borla and Opre (2008), D’Souza, Lumley, Kraft and Dooley (2008) the expressive writing paradigm can be combined with rational emotional behavioural therapy to benefit patients. Having reviewed the main research in expressive writing it is clear that it is of benefit and is an applicable intervention for use and application via blogging. The research review here takes the form of outlining the ways in which the internet and forums in general have had a positive and negative affect on the physical and psychological well-being of its users. This research is relevant to the current research as it raises issues with regard to how technology should be used and how it differs from traditional face-to-face communication. The internet can be viewed as a purely technological tool for communication, teaching and research as laid out in Smith (2001). According to Richards and Tangney (2008) having access to health information in such a manner leads to disinhibition from anonymity, a gateway path to further support and the ability to reach an audience who ordinarily do not use face-to-face services. The goals if the internet has been posited in media system dependency literature as understanding, orientation and play but Melton and Richards (2007) have better identified them as information, communication, entertainment and news. The web can and does play a part in promoting adoption of empirically supported treatments and is specifically useful for practitioners who have inadequate time and resources for more traditional forms of dissemination and training (Riley, Schumann et al, 2007). The use of health social networks such as SEMO and Healtheva are becoming more popular with
healthcare workers, but as Johnmar (2008) discusses social networking is preferred over blogging as it is less time consuming. Leung (2008) points to commonly sought health information that clusters online health improvement, medical treatment, family health and health issues that are difficult to talk about face-to-face. There is a level of trust required in availing of internet health advice and it must be backed up with visits to a health care provider. Factors such as the level of internet usage, health status and demographics of the patient also must be considered as researched by Hong (2008). The internet can be used as a communication tool and the use of such in aiding mental health is not only the sole remit of those who have difficulty in face-to-face communication, Pornsakulvanich, Haridakis and Rubins (2008) identified that even in those who perceived face-to-face communication as rewarding that they use computer mediated communication for self-fulfilment and by disclosing personal feelings online they felt closer to others. Fox Interactive Media (2007) puts the term ‘never ending friending’ on the world of social blogging. It is a world where frictionless attraction makes forging meaningful relationships easier and more rewarding and across emotional attributes and value statements social network users report life is better than without it. Ellison, Steinfeld and Lampe (2007) note a strong association between use of Facebook and bridging social capital, psychological well-being with greater benefits for users experiencing low self-esteem and low life satisfaction. Due to the dynamic and ever-shifting nature of the internet there is an unprecedented ability to optimise and shift into the optimal social groupings on an individual need (Rogers, 2007). Campbell, Cumming, Hughes (2006) report that the internet is forum for expanding social networks, enhancing chance of meaningful relationships, self-confidence, social abilities, social support, that there is no relationship found between time spent online and depression, anxiety or social fearfulness but that the socially fearful may be using internet as form of low-risk social approach and an opportunity to rehearse social behavior and communication skills which may help in offline
face-to-face social environments. According to research put forward by Valkenburg and Peter (2008) those who more often experimented with their identity on internet more often communicated with people of different ages and cultural backgrounds. This had a positive effect on social competence but did not affect their self-concept. Certain research such as that by Suler (1996) discusses the computer as parent figure and gives credence to the concept of transference with machine, an online other. Lear (2000) talks of the physical use of fingers being closely related to discharge of impulses. It is clear according to Norcross, Hedges and Prochaska (2002) that directive, self-change, technological interventions are in ascendency and that virtual therapy is set to flourish. Schoenberg, Ruwe, Dawson et al (2008) agrees and gave evidence to show that a computer-based telephony cognitive rehabilitation program provided similar functional outcomes as face-to-face speech-language therapy at a similar cost. Taking the research with regard to the internet and forums in general the benefits must be related to specific groups of users who may or may not benefit. Research has been carried out across a wide section of the population such as agoraphobic patients in a study by Andersson, Carlbring and Grimlund (2008), stigmatizing diseases such as AIDS, alcoholism, breast and prostate cancer by Davison, Pennebaker and Dickerson (2000), pathological gamblers by Carlbring and Smit (2008), smoking cessation, cardiac, nutritional services by Bessell, McDonald et al (2002), schizophrenia patients and families by Rotondi, Haas et al (2005), family problem counseling by Wade, Carey and Wolfe (2006) and health education related to body satisfaction by Winzelburg, Eppstein et al (2000). These many applications of internet treatment show the versatility and potential benefit of using internet based intervention and Suler (2000), provides model exploring the communication features of internet intervention in terms of synchronous/asynchronous, text/sensory, actual/imaginary, automated/interpersonal, and invisible/present. These in combination can be tailored to
individual clients. Online therapy must be aware that some personality types can adversely be more predisposed to use of the internet such as work carried out by Valkenburg and Peter (2007) which supported the Rich-get-richer hypothesis where people low in dating anxiety were more active online daters than people high in dating anxiety. Both Hung-Yi (2008) and Buffardi and Campbell (2008) reported that high sensation seekers and narcissistic types were more likely to engage in interpersonal deception and flagrant self-promotion. Kessler, Brown and Klerman (1977) and Good and Wood (1995) identified that men tend to avoid seeking help for depression. Nadler and Porat (1978) suggested that depressed men may prefer to get help for problems through sources that preserve anonymity and more generally Chang, Yeh and Krumboltz (2001) noted that men had a positive reaction to online support. Those that have difficulty sharing emotions have positive reaction to online interaction according to Rochlen, Land and Wong (2004). As Oravec (2000), states counselors should ensure that clients are intellectually, emotionally and physically capable of using technology and care is needed to not perceive technology as utopian, efficient and all-encompassing. Face-to-face still has huge benefits. Looking at initial studies Kraut, Kiesler et al (2002) found that loneliness and depression is correlated to internet use but there is a shift towards more positive social involvement, psychological well-being, community involvement, trust, computer skill but with negatives of increases in stress, decline in lowered commitment to locality and extraverts typically gaining more than introverts. The research deals predominantly with users who have pre-existing conditions, or are dealing with specific traumatic experience that has recently been caused. The current thesis will add to this body of work by investigating how the benefits of such can be applied to the general population. The many benefits of internet based communication and support require careful planning and Chang and Yeh (2003), list some of the logistics of setting up an online group such as determining the right and appropriate group members, the group format, the role of
facilitator, and type of group whether open or closed. Murphy (2003) suggests that developers of new products for technology aiding clinical work should accommodate to rather than change the current structure of office-based psychology practice while Castlenuovo, Gaggioli, Mantovani and Riva (2003) promote the integration of traditional and new technology with emphasis placed on technical capacity, diagnostic accuracy, impact and therapeutic impact assessment. Certainly as Carey, Wade and Wolfe (2008) report having prior knowledge of technology increases the benefits of intervention via the internet and this must be taken into account. Blogging has roots in forums and internet communication but differs and as such research in the area of blogging must be considered. Blogging is in the control of a single user. A blog may solicit response from other users but it is ultimately a solitarily conceived discourse. The use of blogging and more generally the internet as a form of therapy is not a panacea and there are many inherent dangers. LaRose, Lin, Eastin (2003) in their analysis demonstrated that depression and media habits formed to alleviate depressed moods but undermined self-regulation and led to increased internet usage. Young (1999) put forward several negative consequences of internet addiction such as familial, academic and occupational problems. Pathological internet use is determined via what applications are in use, emotional triggers, maladaptive cognitions, and current or past life events. Warden, Philips and Ogloff (2004) and Lee and Perry (2004) suggest that anonymity, disinhibition, and underlying psychopathology are most likely elements involved in excessive use and that preoccupation, and loss of control increases as self-regulation becomes more deficient with high internet users. This negative addiction effects can be regulated and treated via ‘practice the opposite’ techniques, external stoppers, goal setting, abstinence, reminder cards, personal inventory, support groups, and family therapy. Bai and Fan (2007) postulate that group online counseling can have an effect on internet-dependent college students. There are inherent
dangers in using the internet and forums generally as a method of communication and Suler (1998) outlines many deviance characteristics that can occur such as impostors, evangelisers, depressives, bullying and so forth. Kraut, Patterson et al (1998) report that greater use of internet was associated with declines in participants’ communication with family, declines in size of social circle, increases in depression and loneliness. Ambriosio (2006) illustrated the negatives of internet use for children with decline in social support, isolation, obesity, being taught to lie, and facing relentless marketing. The use of the many varying communication avenues available on the internet can be addictive and Van der Eijinden, Meerkerk et al (2008) reported that instant messaging and chat rooms are positively related to compulsive internet use 6 months later and instant messaging is positively related to depression. However as Taylor (2000) states online therapy is here, convenient, cost-effective, has diverse clientele ranging from resistant adolescents, isolated elderly to individuals who wish to hide their addictions from others. This must be tempered with the query if it is avoiding real-world problems by immersion in fantasy with a lack of physical contact preventing therapists from assessing client decompensation and associated dangers. Online interactions provide social support for isolated adolescents but they may also normalize and encourage self-injury behavior as researched by Whitlock, Powers and Eckenrode (2006). Communication is difficult without the benefit of paralinguistic cues such as gesture, emphasis, and intonation. It can be difficult to convey emotion and people tend to believe they can communicate better but this is born out of egocentrism, the inherent difficulty of detaching oneself from one’s own perspective as reported by Kruger, Epley, Parker and Ng (2005). Wolak, Finkelhor and Mitchell (2008) report that the population may use internet communication with little risk to unwanted sexual solicitations although most at risk are rule-breaking behavior, depression and social problems. Subrahmanyam and Greenfield report of sexual predation, racism, hate
mail, bullying, and reinforcing of peer communication over parent communication as some of the limitations of communication online. It is important to understand how blogging acts as a communication tool and how it may be used or misused. Blogging is open to miscommunication and Byron (2008) provides a model of what factors make miscommunication in email most likely such as gender, relationship length, relative status of sender, age, negativity affectivity of receiver, social context factor, message factors such as verbal cues and emoticons, neutrality effect and negativity effect, all of which can cause issues in the realm of blogging also. Kiesler, Siegel and McGuire (1984) have shown difference in participation, decisions, and interaction among groups meeting face-to-face and in simultaneous computer-linked discourse. There can be an inequality of participation, decision shifts of group, uninhibited verbal behavior, and communication inefficiencies. As Carrington (2009), states text is an artifact that encodes and displays tensions, resistances, positioning and affinities of its producer and there is a need to understand the role of textual practices in mediating changing conditions and to build this knowledge into our literacy curricula and bring it to debates of ‘core’ literacy skills and attitudes with specific regard to textual practices in blogging. In paying attention to the text therapists can be watchful and aware of miscommunication. Derks, Fischer and Bos, (2008) reports however that there is no indication that computer mediated communication is a less emotional or less personally involving than face-to-face communication and furthermore if any difference is found it is that computer mediated communication show more frequent and explicit emotion. Even use of emoticons aids communication in allowing receivers to correctly understand the level and direction of emotion, attitudes, and attention expression. These quasi-nonverbal cues where measured by Lo (2008). Rochlen, Beretvas and Zack (2004) report more favorable evaluations of face-to-face counseling than of online counseling but work by Subrahmanyam and Greenfield, shows that interaction with strangers can relieve
social anxiety, aid support, information gathering and cementing of current relationships. Rules to blogging are required to retain cohesion in a community blog and are laid out by Silva, Goel and Mousavidin (2008). Such cohesion can be brought about by explicit ground rules regarding membership, presence of moderators, the availability of profile information, net etiquette and tacit warrants for discerning pertinent posts. Frackiewicz, Taylor and House (2008) note that throughout the lifespan there is a huge importance of relevant social support and communication networks are one way of enhancing positive development of identity and well-being. Blogging has been compared in previous research to other types of intervention. This research will only compare an on and off-line set of interventions in terms of diary and blog, but it is worth noting that blogging has been compared to other traditional fact-to-face therapy. Comparing blog intervention with other face-to-face interventions for the treatment of panic disorder and agoraphobia Kiropoulos, Klein et al (2008) found that the online intervention required significantly less therapist time but face-to-face enjoyed communication more, complied with treatment and had increased understanding of material. Carlbring and Andersson (2006), note that, as therapists are in short supply, internet delivered self-help programs are of use in cognitive behavioral therapy, especially as the disorder means many won’t seek therapy due to fear of leaving homes and travelling. Blogging has been of benefit in terms of fertility as in Malik and Coulson (2008), violence and suicide, as in Clarke and van Amerom (2008), management of diabetes, Barrera, Glasgow, McKay, Boles and Feil (2002), coping with cancer, Zakowski, Ramati et al (2004) and suicide prevention (Armson, 1997). An important aspect of this experiment relates to anonymity, social anxiety and personality traits. The following gives a brief synopsis of research with regard to anonymity with online treatment. Blogging allows for anonymity and there are various positives and
negatives to having such visual anonymity. Qian and Scott (2007) found that increased visual anonymity is not associated with greater self-disclosure while Tanis and Postmes (2008) found that the absence of cues to personal identity resulted in more work satisfaction and better subjective performance, mediated by perception of shared identity that emerged in clueless dyads. Research carried out by Lee (2008) showed those with no identity cues were more likely to factor in group identification for their conformity decisions. Christopherson (2007) explains anonymity in internet social interactions using established social psychology theory to explain behavior in computer mediated communication. There is an element of risk to blogging, the relationship between blogger and audience is real, as reported by Noguchi (2005) but both shared and private disclosure result in less cognitive intrusion and avoidance. However as Radcliffe, Lumley et al (2007) note shared disclosure reduces depression, interpersonal sensitivity and physical symptoms. Research carried out by Child (2008) validates collective boundary management rules in application to weblogs where women maintained more closed weblog privacy rules than men. Motivation for the investigation and use of blogs is given here. Also importantly it must be considered as what motivations lie behind an individual’s use of a blog. Blogging can be used but as Chang and Wang (2008) found attitude and behavioral intention are directly affected by users’ internal and external motivation, and are indirectly affected by interactivity through the perceived ease of use, perceived usefulness and flow experience and interactivity is important for absorbing users. Ducate and Lomicka (2008), Schmitt, Dayanim and Matthias (2008) and Papacharissi (2002) note that blog experimentation fosters ownership and creativity, experimentation with language, to obtain feelings of mastery, expression of identity, a means to socialize, expression of forming identities and expression in a relaxed environment with a window to wider culture. Baker and Moore (2008) found that intending bloggers from mySpace scored higher on psychological distress, self-blame and venting and
scored lower on social integration and satisfaction with number of online and face-to-face friends. They may view this activity as a potential mechanism for coping with distress in situations in which they feel inadequately linked with social supports. Motivations for reading and responding to blogs can be affective exchange, information search, entertainment and getting on the bandwagon. Blogs influence opinion acceptance, interaction intentions and word of mouth intentions (Huang, Chou & Lin, 2008). The reading and responding to celebrity blogs allows emphatic interaction which aids ability to maintain preferred representations of celebrity (Sanderson, 2008). Rosen (2007) and Li (2005) gives a detailed list of motivations for use of a blog as informal learning of social norms, rules, how to interact with others, narrative, personal, group history, media literacy, friendship management and status seeking. For Molitorisz (2008) a blog can be seen as relieving tension, gaining control and as a means of gaining a sense of resolution leading to less rumination. Miller and Shepherd (2004) suggest that a blog is a widely shared recurrent need at the cultivation and validation of self where that need is at the intersection of private and public realms where questions about identity are most troubled. Motivation to continue writing was researched by Miura and Yamashita (2007) where being satisfied with the benefits to self, relationships with others, and skill in handling information had significant positive effects on intention to continue blog writing and blogging self-efficacy as noted in Liu (2008) had a positive effect on the benefits of blogging. It should be noted that Trammell, Tarkowski, Hofmoki and Sapp (2006) found that self-expression is a primary motivation for blog posts, more so than social interaction and in Tan (2008) there is an acknowledgement that blogging acts as a form of self-therapy. As Hsu (2007) points out technology such as IM, blogs, wikis, and podcasts are not only conversational technologies but educational and knowledge-orientated which add to the benefits that may be obtained by engaging in expressive discourse online. There is a greater awareness of the positive role the internet can
play and the empowerment that can be achieved by technology (Amichai-Hamburger, 2008). Kennedy and Alger espouse the value of blogs which offer the possibility of transforming publishing and traditional media by forming a more personal and interactive experience rather than as a passive dissemination of information. Ferrando (2003) has shown that the EPQ-R short form of the Eysenck and Eysenck (1975) Personality questionnaire is reasonably precise. This questionnaire will be used to measure the personality traits of the experiment participants. The use of internet predicts personality traits as reported by Ando and Sakamoto (2008) whereas Engelberg and Sjoberg (2004) state that there is no linkage between internet use and personality. Gosling, Gaddis and Vazire (2007) present research based on Facebook that shows consensus across the Big Five personality domains, that is that it is a valid and relevant means of communicating personality. Shyness is shown to be a predictor of internet use as seen in Chak and Leung (2004), Yuen and Lavin (2004), but is contradicted by work by Goulet (2002) that reports that there is no linkage between hours on the internet and shyness but that high internet dependency is related to significant negative personality changes. Young and Rodgers (1998) specify personality traits of high internet addiction to be high self-reliance, emotional sensitivity and reactivity, vigilance, low self-disclosure and non-conformist characteristics. It is clear that the internet can be used as a means of managing identity via dissociation, integration and exploration of self (Suler, 2002). Guadagno, Okdie, Eno (2008) looked at individual difference in neuroticism, extraversion, agreeableness, openness to experience and conscientiousness and if they predicted blogging. They found those high in neuroticism and openness are likely to be bloggers giving clear indication that personality factors affect likelihood of being a blogger. The type of sample population is an important consideration. Gender differences in language were found by Newman, Groom, Handelman and Pennebaker (2008) with women
using words related to psychological and social processes while men used language with regard to objects and impersonal discourse. However as Stefanone and Jang (2007) show age, gender and education have no relationship to network size and blog content. Equally Andersson, Linkoping, Carlbring and Grimlund (2008) reported that cognitive capacity was not predictive of outcome in the internet group for treatment. This indicates that blogging and internet therapy has a wide ranging possible population. Anonymity and the proposed correlate social anxiety will be investigated in this research, both in terms of its affect of the use of blogging technology and the outcome of its use. Written emotional expression can be an affective strategy to manage negative emotions for individuals high in fear of rejection (Langens & Schuler 2005). This ties to social anxiety with Schlenker and leary (1982), (1985), Zimbardo (1977) stating that concern for how one is perceived and evaluated by others is a vital component of such anxiety. Andersson, Linkoping, Carlbring and Grimlund (2008) reported that anxiousness was seen to be associated with poorer outcome for internet treatment but better outcome in face-to-face treatment. The FNE measurement correlates moderately with measures of social anxiousness such as SAD, interaction shyness, shyness and audience scales as reported in Jennings (1985), Jones, Briggs and Smith (1986), Leary (1983d) and Watson and Friend (1969). FNE has been used as an outcome measure in social anxiety treatment and as such is a valid measure for use in the experiment (Collins, Westra, Dozois and Stewart, 2005). The GWB measurement is one of the most useful instruments in measuring depression, Fazio (1977) and Liu and Larose (2008) have identified that internet use, perceived online social support and online social self-efficacy have direct positive impacts on school life satisfaction which can be viewed as a causal mechanism that links life online to an indicator of psychological well-being.
Taking all the previous research outlined above and in conjunction with Fenichel, Suler, Barak et al (2002) we can outline several myths of online clinical work which deal with many of the criticisms of the barrier placed between therapist and client. These myths also strongly relate to the aims of this research. Online therapy is possible and patients have reported self-perception of increased autonym, improvement in decision-making, interpersonal relationships, more responsibility for self-help and interpersonal engagement. Online therapy does not only solely take the form of email exchanges but can and does make use of text-based technologies, video conferencing, virtual reality, chat-room, forums and blogs. Communicating via the internet offers a unique elasticity of communication and even without literary sophistication a patient can be honest, uninhibited and more expressive, whether than be with poem, songs, diary or blogs, in expressive writing than in face-to-face. People in crisis tend to share their experience and feelings with anonymous partners on the net and the internet can form an adjunct to more traditional treatments or as an introductory intervention. Disparity in physical location or culture can be problematic but can be viewed as a positive factor, allowing differing points of view to be heard and unique collaboration to occur. Asynchronous communication can be used in affective manner allowing time for patients to think through their innermost thoughts and feelings. Intervention can occur on a one-to-one basis, as part of a group or in both forms with both therapist and patient benefiting from the interaction enabled by online therapy. It should be noted though that the use of online technologies for communication and sharing should not be treated as offline counterparts are. There is a need to be aware of immediate environment, experience of client, tone and circumstance, abilities with regard to technology and typical response rate of patients. The use of words, tact, diplomacy, amount of resources in terms of time and technology, technological skill must be considered when dealing with online intervention. Negative issues such as isolation, disinhibition affecting therapist as well as
client, loneliness and maintaining professional distance need careful attendance. It is new and emerging form of treatment and research into the use of such is required. This thesis seeks to add to this discussion. The aim of this thesis is to investigate the effectiveness of maintaining a personal blog to increase general well-being. Rochlen, Beretvas et al (2004) suggest that therapy delivered via the internet is not as beneficial as face-to-face counselling and that internet use by the socially fearful can lead to addiction rather than to therapy (Campbell, Cummings, Hughes 2006). This research will take the research outlined above and apply them to an intervention blog experiment. This means of intervention will be compared to those writing a traditional pen and paper diary and a control group that carries out no intervention. Aspects of personality in terms of neurosis, extroversion and psychosis, using the EPQ-R will be measured alongside general social anxiety, using the FNE metric. General internet usage will also be measured. This will tie the research areas discussed earlier, namely general mental health, expressive writing, forums, blogs and internet usage in psychological intervention, personality and general well-being together to form several hypotheses. It will extend the research already carried out in written emotional disclosure to the online world and will attempt to bring evidence to bear on the benefits of such communication without the need for strong social connection. The primary goal of the experiment is to show if, over a short period of time, typically a week, using emotional disclosure via online blogging, there is an associated effect on the general well-being of the participants. The mode of expression such as in Corter, Petrie (2008) will be tied to the types of expression, such as in Swanbon, Boyce, Greenberg (2008) to add to the current research in the area. It will newly extend the research from written emotional disclosure to the online world and will bring evidence to bear on the benefits of such communication for the individual without the need for strong social connection. Chung and Pennebaker (2008) suggest that variation in spacing of expressive
writing sessions has no aversive affect on the expressive writing protocol. A brief writing session will be used which while being more emotionally demanding has comparable effects on physical symptoms to longer term intervention. Emphasis will be placed on the anonymity of the online blog in use. As Herring, Scheidt, Wright and Bonus (2005) report blogs are not so interlinked, interactive nor orientated to external events as the internet in general is and are underestimated as individualistic, intimate forms of self-expression. The investigation is conducted with the aim that it will show the benefits of the use of blogs as a form of private self-directed therapy that can aid the mental health of internet users. It sets out to bring evidence to bear which shows the internet is more than information and entertainment. While as Litz (2008) suggests, studies downplay the role of human contact and that in an ideal world there would be no barriers to care in terms of face-to-face therapy. More people will receive the care they need via online or self-directed therapy and this experiment posits that blogging can partially fill this gap in resources. Much work has been carried out as discussed above to suggest that there is a negative effect on the psychological health of the population in use of the internet and this thesis seeks to investigate this concept also. The hypotheses under investigation can be set out in several component parts. These alternate hypotheses are as follows: 1. There will be a significant difference between the GWB scores at time A as compared with the GWB scores at time B. a. There will be a significant difference between the subscale GWB scores of anxiety, depression, vitality, self-control, general health and positive wellbeing at time A with those respective scores at time B. 2. There will be a significant difference in the scores of psychoticism, extroversion, neuroticism, GWB at time A, GWB at time B and FNE when compared according to groupings specified as:
a. Experimental group, either control, diary or blog. b. Sex, either male or female. c. Age group, broken into age brackets of 5 years from 20 to 40 years of age. d. Content type, either predominantly personal, balanced or predominantly work related. e. The amount of hours spent online for personal motives as broken down in 5 hour groupings. f. The amount of hours spent online for work motives as broken down in 5 hour groupings. 3. There will be a significant correlation between scores of psychoticism, extroversion, neuroticim, GWB at time A, GWB at time B and FNE and the following variables: a. Experimental Group b. Age c. Sex 4. There will be a significant correlation between psychoticism, extroversion, neuroticism and the following variables: a. GWB scores at time A. b. GWB scores at time B c. FNE scores. 5. There will be a significant correlation between GWB scores at time A and time B a. And the percentage of the expressive writing content that is work related. b. And the percentage of the expressive writing content that is personal related. 6. There will be a significant correlation between the FNE score and the GWB scores at time A and time B.
7. There will be a significant correlation between the GWB difference scores and psychoticism, neuroticism, extroversion and FNE scores.
Apparatus and Materials
The material and apparatus used were predominantly computer-based. All participants were required to have access to a computer with an internet connection and web browsing software. Communication was carried out via email and as such each participant required an available email address for contact. The questionnaires were provided online using the SurveyMonkeytm software. These questionnaires were accessed via a web-browser. As the experiment required three groups, control, diary and blog, computer software was used to randomly create unique usernames for each participant and to also randomly assign each participant to one of the experimental groups. Those participants who formed the blogging group were given further materials to aid in writing of their individual blogs. Each participant in said group was provided with a unique username, email address and password which allowed them to gain access to a pre-registered blog using the Blogger.comtm blogging tool. Email addresses were created using the Gmailtm application. An explanatory website was also set up and hosted to inform all blog participants of the minimal steps required to create a blog entry with specific guidance in relation to the experiment. Those participants in the diary group required pen and paper to carry out their diary entries. At each stage of the experiment all groups received instructional emails detailing the various steps that were required at relevant points in the experiment.
A combination of cluster sampling was used alongside snowball sampling to achieve a sample of 31 total participants (N=31). The participants were required to be knowledgeable in the use of computers whether via work or personal usage. No specific age-group was targeted. The control group consisted of 11 participants (n=11). The diary group consisted of 8 participants (n=8). The blog group consisted of 12 participants (n=12). There were 19 male
(n=19) and 12 female participants (n=12). Participant ages ranged from 23 to 36 years of age with a mean age of 30.35 years of age (M=30.35, SD = of 3.241). All participants had working knowledge of computers and all were members of at least one social networking site with Facebooktm having 26 members, Bebotm having 9 members, myspacetm having 5 members, amd Linkedintm having 8 members.
Participants were assigned to the three experimental groups using random computerbased assignment. The experiment made use of a quasi-experimental design comprising of an initial questionnaire to gain baseline scale GWB scores using the short-scale version of the measurement (Fazio, 1977), scale EPQ personality traits using the short-scale measurement, which measure psychoticism, neuroticism and extroversion (Eysenck & Eysenck, 1975), ordinal and nominal demographic and internet usage details. This was followed by an intervention experiment using independent groups and repeated measures using the expressive writing protocol (Pennebaker & Beall, 1986). Upon completion of the intervention a retrospective questionnaire was carried out to record post-intervention GWB, social anxiety levels in terms of the FNE using the short-scale measurement (Watson, Friend, 1969, Collins, Westra, Dozois & Stewart, 2005) and participants’ experience of the intervention. The quasiexperimental design can be split into two main components. The initial study component will consist of a correlational relationship between: Predictor Variables: Personality EPQ score, FNE score, sex, age, Internet usage demographics. Criterion Variables: GWB score.
The experimental component will measure the strength of relationship between: Independent Variables: Sex, Age, Emotional Disclosure Style Group (Personal or Work), Internet usage demographics, Intervention Type (Control, Blog, Diary) Dependent Variables: GWB score.
The following psychometric measures were used: FNE (Watson and Friend, 1969, Leary, 1983a). The measure used was the short-scale version with 12 items, answered on a 5 point scale, with totalled scores ranging from 12 to 60 with a higher score equating to high FNE. The Cronbach’s α coefficient is 0.9. Internal consistency is medium with correlations ranging from 0.43 to 0.75. GWB (Fazio, 1977). The measure has 33 items, 14 with six response options, 4 with 0-10 rating bars and 15 self-evaluation behavioural items. Scale scores range from 14 to 134 (highest well-being) for the first 18 items. The Cronbach’s α coefficient is 0.86. Internal consistency is medium with correlations ranging from 0.48 to 0.78. There are six subscales of anxiety, depression, general health, vitality, positive well-being and selfcontrol with internal consistency correlations ranging from 0.56 to 0.88. EPQ-R (Eysenck and Eysenck, 1975). The measure used was the short-scale version with a total of 48 items, consisting of four sub-scales of 12 items each: extraversion (E), neuroticism (N), psychoticism (P) and the lie scale (L). It is scored on a Yes (1) / No (0) format and possible scores can range between 0-12, with higher scores indicating higher
levels of the personality trait. Research using the scale has reported acceptable levels of reliabilities from 0.78 to 87 for E, 0.79 to 0.81 for N, and 0.65 to 0.71 for P (Francis, Brown, & Philipchalk, 1992)
The experiment was broken into several distinct phases. These were an initial invitation to partake in the research, the setup and assignment of participants into separate experimental groups, instructions detailed and carrying out of the pre-intervention questionnaire, instructions for the intervention based on the individual group and carrying out of the given intervention. Finally instructions and carrying out of the post-intervention questionnaire took place. Figure 1 illustrates the experiment broken into 6 distinct stages. These subsections of the experiment are broken down and detailed below. Stage A: An initial invitational email was sent to a large group of potential participants that gave brief details of the type of time commitment that would be involved and that the experiment would take place via the internet. A time period for running of the experiment was provided and closing date for participation in the study given. Stage B: The potential participants who expressed interest in aiding in the research were collected and randomly assigned via computer to one of three groups, namely: Control, Blog or Diary groups. Each participant was also given a unique username to use in carrying out the experiment.
Figure 1 – Experimental Model
Stage C: Each of the groups were contacted via email and provided with unique anonymous usernames and instructed to fill in an online questionnaire. This questionnaire consisted of demographic questions, internet usage questions, the EPQ-R Short Scale questionnaire and the GWB Short Scale questionnaire.
Each of these groups had a set of tasks to complete and as such each was given individual and separate instructions in order to carry out the experiment. The procedure carried out for each individual group is discussed separately below. Control Group: Stage D: The control group were then asked to wait approximately one week for further instructions. Diary Group: Stage D: The diary group was then instructed to carry out an expressive writing task over a week period taking at least three separate fifteen minute time periods to write a personal diary on pen and paper. They were also informed that after a week period they would be contacted with further details. Blog Group: Stage C: The blog group were also provided with details of anonymous blogs that were setup on their behalf at Blogger.com. A brief explanation in the usage of the blogging site was also provided. They were given email addresses and passwords to access the site. The email addresses and passwords were randomly assigned by computer. Stage D: The blog group was then instructed to carry out an expressive writing task over a week period taking at least three separate fifteen minute time periods to write a blog in their provided blogging space. They were also informed that after a week period they would be contacted with further details.
Stage E: After a one week period all groups were contacted via email and asked to fill in a second questionnaire using their provided unique usernames. This consisted of further internet-usage questions, the GWB short Scale questionnaire and the FNE
Short Scale questionnaire. The blog group were also provided with instructions regarding how to remove their blog from the blogging site. Both the diary and blog groups were given identical expressive writing protocols bar the mode of expression where the diary group were told to keep a personal diary and the blog group was told to write in their provided online blog. The expressive writing protocol for both was:
“After filling in this initial questionnaire I would like you to keep a (temporary offline diary in pen and paper format), (an online blog). In keeping this diary / blog I would like you to keep the following in mind. For the next 6 days, I would like you to write your very deepest thoughts about your life or an extremely important emotional issue that has affected you and your life. In your writing, I'd like you to really let go and explore your deepest emotions and thoughts. You might tie your topic to your relationships with others, including parents, lovers, friends or relatives; to your past, your present your future; or to who you have been, who you would like to be or who you are now; to important work or personal issues in your life; goals and aims that you have succeeded in or want to pursue; any topic that you have strong emotional connection with. There is no right or wrong topic. You may write about the same general issues or experiences on all days of your writing or about different topics each day. All of your writing will be completely confidential. I would like you to spend 15 minutes over 3 sessions writing this diary. Those sessions can take place on any individual day you wish. Don't worry about spelling, grammar or sentence structure. The only rule is that once you begin writing, you continue until the time is up.”
Stage F: Upon completion of all questionnaires all groups were provided with details of relevant organisations to contact if they were affected by any of the items discussed in the online questionnaire. At the end of the experiment all groups were thanked for their participation.
The aims of this study were analysed through several statistical analysis. First descriptive statistics were used to examine total mean scores and by the sex of the respondent on all variables. Secondly several statistical tests were run to validate and ascertain whether parametric or non-parametric tests should be run. A Cronbach Alpha test was run to determine the validity and reliability of the instruments used. A Kolmogorov-Smirnov test was used to test for normality and give indication of which further statistical tests should be run. A parametric Wilcoxon Signed Rank Test was run to compare 2 related data sets of GWB scores across time A and time B and a non-parametric Paired t-test was also run to a similar end. A non-parametric Mann Whitney U test was run to compare unrelated variables in the experiment such as EPQ, type of written disclosure content and FNE. Similarly an independent t-test for parametric distribution was run. A Kruskal-Wallis test was run to compare across 3 or more conditions. A one way ANOVA was run to look at correlations across several categorically independent variables. This allows analysis of the results as divided up by several groupings such as age bracket, experimental group and so forth. Correlation was used in the form of a parametric Pearson test and a non-parametric Spearman Rho test to look at the association between various variables. Finally a Linear regression was run to determine if there was a model of association between the variables under measurement.
There was a total sample size of 31 (N=31) with 19 males (n=19) and 12 females (n=12). This population sample was split into three groups with 11 in the control group (n=11), 8 in the diary group (n=8) and 12 in the blog group (n=12). Several internet related demographic questions were asked. The frequency of responses is provided. Firstly the participants were asked what type of activities they regularly carried out online and results are displayed in Table 1.
Table 1 - Internet Usage Demographics
Internet Use Work Purposes Chat Rooms Instant Messaging Gaming Gambling Shopping Music Forums Stocks Relationships Social Interaction
Total Participants 31 7 23 12 4 29 25 13 4 9 24
All participants use the internet for work and with the majority doing so for social interaction, instant messaging and shopping. Secondly the participants were then asked; of the social networking sites available which did they use on a regular basis (See Table 2). The table shows that Facebook is predominantly used by the population sample.
Table 2 - Social Networking Usage
Social Networking Site Facebooktm Bebotm mySpacetm LinkedIn
Total 26 9 5 8
Thirdly the participants were asked how many hours per week they use the internet for work with a resultant average of 13.87 hours (Mean=13.87, SD=14.435). The participants were also asked how many hours per week did they use the internet for personal activities and an average of 11.23 hours a week was found (Mean=11.23, SD=7.8). The mean number of hours using the internet for work is greater than for personal, suggesting the internet is predominantly used as a tool of work rather than entertainment. There was a large variation in the amount of time spent online for both work and personal. Of those participants who took part in the experiment, 20 of the sample took part in the expressive writing protocol while the remaining 11 formed the control. Of these 20 who wrote a diary or blog, 12 wrote predominantly about personal issues, 2 wrote equally about personal and work issues and 6 wrote predominantly about work issues. The average time spent writing the diary or blog was 43.75 minutes (Mean=43.75, SD=16.212). Fourthly the participants were asked about the content of their blogs. The average percentage of the written assignment that was about work issues was 41.65 % (Mean=41.65, SD=28.046). The average percentage of the written assignment that was about personal issues was 58.8 % (Mean=58.8, SD=28.313). Those who took part in the diary group were asked if they would write about the same issues online as they had done in their pen and paper diary and 7 of the 8 said they would not do so. The 20 participants who took part in the writing assignment were asked if they felt that a social networking site was more revealing than their written intervention and 18 felt that the
intervention was much more revealing. As part of the GWB survey all 31 participants were asked if they discussed problems with any member of their family or friends. 21 confirmed that they did with varying levels of benefit, 3 stated they had no one to talk to, 4 stated they didn’t want to talk and 3 stated they had no problems to talk about with others. Table 3 gives the mean, Std. Deviation, Skewness and kurtosis of the EPQ, GWB and FNE measues across the full sample. Looking at all variables the skewness and kurtosis close to zero gives strong evidence that the data is normally distributed while larger skewness and kurtosis suggests non-normal distribution. Looking at the average score for GWB across time A and time B there is a decline in the average well being score of the participants. However the standard deviation is quite large as a percentage of the average score at approximately 23% showing a wide range of values. There is slightly larger variance in scores at time A as compared to time B for GWB scores also. The psychoticism score is low indicating low psychoticism traits in the sample. The extroversion and neuroticism scores are slightly above average. The mean FNE short scale has a maximum score of 60 and with a mean score of 38.9 indicates that the participants are only slightly more concerned with being evaluated than the norm.
Table 3- Mean, Std Deviation, Skew and Kurtosis of Measure Scores
Variables Psychotisim Extroversion Neuroticism GWB at time A GWB-A Anxiety GWB-A Depression GWB-A Positive Well-Being GWB-A Self-Control GWB-A Vitality GWB-A General Health GWB at time B GWB-B Anxiety GWB-B Depression GWB-B Positive Well-Being GWB-B Self-Control GWB-B Vitality GWB-B General Health FNE
Table 4 reports the mean and std. deviation of scores across the main measures as split by the sex of the participant. There is a difference of 6 marks between the GWB at time A for males as compared to females. The score on the GWB at both time A and time B is higher for males than for females.
Table 4 - Mean and Std Deviation of Scores Per Sex
Variables Psychoticism Extroversion Neuroticism GWB at time A GWB at time B FNE
3 7.26 5.42 84.63 82.95 38.63
1.83 8 7.5 78.17 78 39.33
Figure 2 shows the mean scores across the three groups and indicates that there is little difference in scores between them. Only in GWB does the level of GWB increase from Blog to Control to Diary but only relative to time A and time B within the individual groups.
Mean Scores per Experimental Group
100 90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0
CONTROL DIARY BLOG
Figure 2 - Mean Scores per Experimental Group
A Cronbach Alpha test for reliability was run and a score of 0.822 was calculated and as such indicates a reliable survey with answers that differ because respondents have different opinions, not because the survey is confusing or has multiple interpretations. A KolmogorovSmirnov test was also carried out to test normality of the distribution of the data. The test returned a statistically significant result (Z=1.4071, 2-tailed, P < 0.05). This means the data poorly fits the normal curve and the data is not normally distributed. Looking at the significance on the main variables under measurement (Table 5), they return a non-significant result suggesting that for these variables the data fits the normal curve and the data is normally distributed. The data was found to have conflicting indicators of normality and as such the assumptions of both parametric and non-parametric tests are unclear so it was decided to run both on the data collected.
Figure 3 gives illustration of the differences in GWB score per participant. Statistical analysis of the differences in measurements across time and groups is required.
A parametric paired sample t-test was run comparing the difference between GWB at time A with The GWB score at time B. (t(30) = 0.894, 2-tailed, p > 0.05). This shows there is no statistically significant change in the GWB scores at time A as compared with time B, that is the scores, per participant remain fairly stable from time A to time B after intervention has occurred. The Pearson Correlation shows a score of 0.9352, p < 0.05, showing a large positive correlation. This shows that the GWB score at time A and time B are consistent across participant survey. A Wilcoxon signed rank test was carried out comparing the differences between GWB at time A and time B using non-parametric statistical analysis.
Negative Ranking of scores: 16, Positive Ranking of scores: 10, Ties in scores: 5. Z=-1.0061, p=0.3144, 2-tailed, p > 0.05.
There is no statistically significant difference between the GWB score at time A and time B,
as was found with the paired sample t-test. There is a larger sum of negative ranks than positive ranks suggesting that the GWB score for participants decreased rather than increased. There are five ties in score suggesting the GWB score did not alter at all from time A to time B. This does not indicate however if or in what metric the GWB of the participants remained constant or changed across time. Comparison of the subscales of the GWB measurement across time A and B gives a more in-depth analysis of the constancy of the scores measured. A paired sample t-test was run across the 6 subscales of the GWB measurement for time A comparison to time B. The vitality (t(30) = 2.038, 2-tailed, p < 0.05) and positive well-being (t(30) = 3.053, 2-tailed, p < 0.05) subscales are shown to have statistically significant difference in scores between time A and time B with p < 0.05 for both. The other subscale measures of anxiety, depression, self-control and general health did not significantly differ from time A to time B (Table 6). A non-parametric Wilcoxon Signed Rank Test was also run against the 6 subscales of GWB across time A and time B with the only vitality significance differing (Z=-1.865, 2-tailed, p > 0.05). A non-parametric Mann Whitney test was run to compare variables under measurement according to differences in sex. The measurement of psychoticism (Z=-2.1104, 2-tailed, p < 0.05) was the only measurement to have a statistically significant difference across sex with p < 0.05 with all other variables, extroversion, neuroticism, GWB at time A, B and FNE, having a non-significant result (Appendix A - Table 7). A parametric independent sample t-test was also run to compare variables under measurement according to sex with all tests in agreement with the Mann Whitney U test. A non-parametric Kruskal-Wallis test was run to compare variables under measurement across the experimental groups of control, diary and blog. The results indicate that neuroticism ( (2) = 6.3144, p < 0.05), GWB at time A ( (2) = 6.1919, p < 0.05) and
GWB at time B ( (2) = 7.7489, p < 0.05) are statistically different when comparing each individually across the three groups with p < 0.05. All other results for psychoticism, extroversion and FNE were insignificant (Appendix A - Table 8). A one-way ANOVA was run to compare means of variables grouped by the experimental group with all results in agreement with the findings of the Kruskal-Wallis test. A one way ANOVA was run to determine if there was a significant difference in mean scores across the metrics under measurement in the experiment as grouped by whether the blog / diary was predominantly about personal, both or work issues. It was found that for all scored dependent variables, namely psychoticism, extroversion, neuroticism, GWB at time A, B and FNE, there was no significant difference in scores when comparing the content of the written intervention undertaken (Appendix A - Table 9). An ANOVA was run to compare means of variables grouped by the amount of hours spent using the internet for personal reasons grouped in 5 hour segments. There were no significantly different average scores compared across these groups when looking at psychoticism, neuroticism, extroversion, GWB at time A, GWB at time B, their six subscales, the difference in GWB between time A and time B and FNE. An ANOVA was run to compare means of variables grouped by the amount of hours spent using the internet for work reasons grouped in 5 hour segments. There were no significantly different average scores compared across these groups when looking at psychoticism, neuroticism, extroversion, GWB at time A, GWB at time B, their six subscales, the difference in GWB between time A and time B and FNE. It was found that there is a statistically significant difference in scores of general health (F(4) = 4.227, 2-tailed, p < 0.05) and vitality ( F(4) = 2.938, 2-tailed, p < 0.05) at time A between participants grouped by the amount of time they spent on the internet for work. An ANOVA was run to compare means of variables grouped by age-group, where
ages were split into groups of five year segments. There were no significantly different average scores compared across age groups when looking at psychoticism, neuroticism, extroversion, GWB at time A, GWB at time B, their six subscales, the difference in GWB between time A and time B and FNE.
A parametric Pearson correlation and a non-parametric Spearman Rho battery of tests were carried out in order to determine if there was any correlation between variables and if so to measure the strength and direction of association between those variables. Pearson correlation tests were carried out to ascertain the strength of correlation between the experimental group and various variables, namely psychoticism, extroversion, neuroticism, GWB at time A, time B and FNE. It was found that there was no correlation between the experimental group and the measures of EPQ, GWB at time A or time B and FNE with P > 0.05 (Appendix A - Table 10). It was found that, like the Pearson correlation results above there was no significant correlation between the experimental group and psychoticism, extroversion, neuroticism, GWB at time A, B when using a non-parametric Spearman Rho test but the Spearman Rho correlation does implies there is a significant correlation between the experiment group and FNE (rho = 0.359, 2-tailed, p < 0.05). The set of Pearson correlation tests carried out to ascertain the strength of correlation between the age and various variables under test are presented below. The age groups were set in blocks of 5 years from 20 to 40 years of age. It was found that there was no correlation between the age group and the measures of EPQ, GWB at time A or time B and FNE with p > 0.05 (Appendix A - Table 11). Similarly when running a non-parametric Spearman Rho test it was found that there was no correlation between the age group and the measures of EPQ, GWB at time A or time B and FNE with p > 0.05. The set of Pearson correlation tests carried out to ascertain the strength of correlation
between the sex and various variables, namely psychoticism, extroversion, neuroticism, GWB at time A, time B and FNE were run. It was found that there was no correlation between sex and the measures of extroversion, neuroticism, GWB at time A or time B and FNE with p > 0.05 (Appendix A - Table 12). There was a significant weak positive
correlation between sex and psychoticism (r = 0.097, 2-tailed, p < 0.05). When a Spearman Rho test was run under the same conditions a significant negative medium correlation was found between sex and psychoticism with P < 0.05. Similarly to the parametric correlation results it was found that there was no correlation between the sex and the measures of extroversion, neuroticism, GWB at time A or time B and FNE with P > 0.05. The set of Pearson correlation tests carried out to ascertain the strength of correlation between neuroticism and GWB at time A, time B and FNE. It was found that there is a statistically significant strong negative correlation between neuroticism and GWB at time A (r = -0.745, 2-tailed, p < 0.05) and time B (r = -0.7698, 2-tailed, p < 0.05), which is as neuroticism increases GWB goes down. There is a significant positive medium correlation between neuroticism and FNE (r = 0.597, 2-tailed, p < 0.05) meaning that as neuroticism goes up so does FNE. The same findings were found when a Spearman Rho test was run. Pearson correlation tests were carried out to ascertain the strength of correlation between psychoticism and GWB at time A, time B and FNE. It was found that there was no correlation between psychoticism and GWB at time A, time B or with FNE as p > 0.05 (Appendix A - Table 13). Similar results were found when a non-parametric Spearman Rho test was run. Pearson correlation tests carried out to ascertain the strength of correlation between extroversion and GWB at time A, time B and FNE. It was found that there was no correlation between extroversion and GWB at time A, time B or with FNE as p > 0.05 (Appendix A -
Table 14). Similar results were found when a non-parametric Spearman Rho test was run. Pearson correlation tests were carried out to ascertain the strength of correlation between the percentage about work issues and GWB at time A and B. It was found that there was no correlation between the percentage of time spent online for work and GWB at time A and time B as p > 0.05 (Appendix A - Table 15). Similar results were found when a nonparametric Spearman Rho test was run. Pearson correlation tests were carried out to ascertain the strength of correlation between the percentage about personal issues and GWB at time A and B. It was found that there was no correlation between the percentage of time spent online for personal and GWB at time A and time B as p > 0.05 (Appendix A - Table 16). Similar results were found when a non-parametric Spearman Rho test was run. Pearson correlation tests were carried out to ascertain the strength of correlation between FNE and GWB at times A and B. It was found that there is a significant negative correlation between FNE and GWB at both time A (r = -0.432, 2-tailed, p < 0.05) and time B (r = -0.386, 2-tailed, p < 0.05). This negative medium correlation means that as FNE increases GWB decreases and vice versa. Similar results were found when a non-parametric Spearman Rho test was run. A parametric Pearson test was run to determine if there was any correlation between EPQ and FNE scores and the difference in GWB scores from time A to time B. No significant correlations were found (Appendix A - Table 17). Similar results were found when a non-parametric Spearman Rho test was run.
A hierarchical multiple regression using the enter method was run to model the value of GWB at time B based on predictor variables of the amount of hours online for personal motives, the amount of hours online for work, sex, extroversion, experimental group, whether
the participant used the internet for work, psychoticism, age, FNE, and neuroticism (F(11) = 4.402, p < 0.05). This statistically significant value means the variation explained by the model is not due to chance. Looking at the coefficients for neuroticism it was found that β = 0.721, p < 0.05. This gives a statistically significant predictor relationship between neuroticism and the GWB at time A. A hierarchical multiple regression using the enter method was run to model the value of GWB at time A based on predictor variables of the amount of hours online for personal motives, the amount of hours online for work, sex, extroversion, experimental group, whether the participant used the internet for work, psychoticism, age, FNE, and neuroticism (F(11) = 2.552, p > 0.05). This statistically insignificant value means the variation explained by the model is due to chance.
With regard to the hypothesis that there will be a significant difference between the GWB scores at time A as compared with the GWB scores at time B it was found that the null hypothesis could not be rejected, that is there was no significant difference found between GWB scores pre and post intervention across the groups. GWB scores remained relatively constant from time A to time B with minimal change. There was a slight insignificant decrease in GWB at time B as compared with GWB at time A. When looking more closely at the subscales of the GWB measurement it was found that the null hypothesis could not be rejected. There was no significant difference between the subscale GWB scores of anxiety, depression, self-control and general health and at time A with those respective scores at time B. The null hypothesis could be rejected for vitality and positive well-being scores pre and post intervention however. The subscale measurements provide only crude measurements (Wan, 1977) and the results found here should be investigated with more specific metrics to measure the two significant results. The GWB measurement may not have been sensitive enough to pick up on positive or negative mean scores at time A as compared with time B. The GWB scale has been noted to have excellent internal consistency but poor test-retest reliability by Edwards (1978) but it was found in this experiment that across all participants the GWB scores remained consistent across time. This would seem to agree with previous work by Frisina (2004) and would suggest that physical rather than psychological measures should be used. The second hypothesis stated that there will be a significant difference in the scores of psychoticism, extroversion, neuroticism, GWB at time A, GWB at time B and FNE when compared across experimental group, either control, diary or blog. The null hypothesis could not be rejected except in the case of GWB at time A, time B and neuroticism. There is a
significant difference between the scores of participants of the experimental groups in these three cases. The alternate hypothesis that there is a significant difference in extroversion, neuroticism, GWB at time A, time B and FNE when comparing across sex group of male or female was rejected. However a significant difference was found between the sexes wit regard to psychoticism. We failed to reject the null hypothesis with regard to the variables measured and grouped by age. This would suggest that across the range of ages the measurement scores were similar. This means mean personality traits do not vary across age nor does FNE vary across age. This can be seen as a positive result as the youngest participant had the same tendency to social anxiety as the eldest. Equally the fact that the GWB scores at each age group did not significantly differ can be seen as positive in that the GWB scores were relatively high meaning all participants felt in good health in the last month and no one age group felt worse than the other. The null hypothesis was not rejected with regard to the variables under measurement as compared across the content type of the writing task undertaken, either predominantly personal, balanced or predominantly work related. There is no significant difference across content type groups. The null hypothesis was not rejected for the measured variables grouped by the amount of hours spent online for personal motives and for the amount of hours spent online for work motives, both broken down in 5 hour brackets. The alternate hypothesis that there is a significant difference between the subscale scores of general health and vitality across the grouping according to amount of time spent online for work was found. This differs from work such as that carried out by Subrahmanyam and Lin (2007) where they found that with regard to internet use and well-being neither the total amount of time online nor time on e-mail was related. The third alternate hypothesis stated that there will be a significant correlation between scores of psychoticism, extroversion, neuroticism, GWB at time A, GWB at time B and FNE and the experimental group, age and sex. The null hypothesis could not be rejected
for the variables across experimental group, age and sex apart from a correlation between sex and psychoticism. This result adds strength to the already discussed analysis that there is a significant difference in the psychoticism across males and females. There is a weak positive correlation between the sex of participant and psychoticism. This means that for males psychoticism weakly reduces as compared to females. This result may be of importance and a new finding with regard to explanation that males in previous research have responded more positively to online therapy. Sex of the participant has been indicated as an important factor in the success of intervention in research such as Rochlen, Land and Wong (2004) and Good and Wood (1995) but they tended to explain benefits in terms of the freeing of the repressive nature of males by virtue of the anonymity of online therapy. The fourth hypothesis stated that there will be a significant correlation between psychoticism, extroversion, neuroticism and GWB scores at time A, time B and FNE scores. The null hypothesis could not be rejected with regard to psychoticism and extroversion. The alternate hypothesis held for neuroticism with a strong negative correlation between neuroticism and GWB. As neuroticism decreased the GWB score can be said to be statistically more likely to increase and as it increases the GWB score can be said to be statistically more likely to decrease. The alternate hypothesis also held for FNE and neuroticism with a positive medium correlation between the two variables. As neuroticism increases so does statistical likelihood of the FNE score increasing. This agrees with findings made by Buffardi and Campbell (2008) in relation to personality types that partake in online social communication. The fifth alternate hypothesis stated that there will be a significant correlation between GWB scores at time A and time B with the percentage of the expressive writing content that is work related and personal related. The null hypothesis could not be rejected and there was no significant correlation. This could be viewed as the content of the blog or
diary does not affect the outcome but rather the act of doing the task is most pertinent or that in the case of research carried out by Lyubomirsky, Sousa and Dickerhoof (2006), that it is the fact of whether the content expressed is positive or negative rather than the specific topic than is of most importance. This experiment could be extended to determine whether people who write negative or positive blogs have increased life satisfaction and general health. The findings need further investigation with regard to work by Corey, Wade and Wolfe (2008) that looks at prior knowledge of the internet as playing a large factor in the benefit of online therapy. The sixth hypothesis stated that there will be a significant correlation between the FNE score and the GWB scores at time A and time B. The null hypothesis can be rejected as it was found that there is a significant negative medium correlation between the variables. As FNE increases so the GWB score is more statistically likely to decrease and vice versa. Compared to people who score low on the FNE scale, high scorers are more concerned with being evaluated, report being more bothered by performing poorly and are more motivated to perform well (Leary, Barnes & Griebel 1986). FNE relates to other social anxiety measurements also (Jennings, 1985, Jones, Briggs & Smith, 1986, Leary, 1983d and Watson & Friend, 1969) and indicates that general social anxiety is not a positive influence on general health. The final alternate hypothesis stated that there will be a significant correlation between the GWB difference scores and psychoticism, neuroticism, extroversion and FNE scores. It was found that the null hypothesis could not be rejected. There was no correlation between the positive or negative difference in GWB score in conjunction with the personality and social anxiety scores.
Neuroticism is clearly indicated to be a strong predictor of the effect of the expressive writing protocol on the GWB of the sample population. Neurotics report many worries, anxieties, and irritating emotional feelings. They may develop neurotic disorders when under stress, which fall short of actual neurotic collapses. They may be the most beneficial users of blogging and social networking in general. Work such as that by Young and Rodgers (1998) and Lee, Han, Yang and Daniels (2008) that reports that excessive internet use has been linked to depression in patients and this work could be extended to further investigate the types of blogging user and the correlates, if any, with specific usage of the internet such as blogging. Several demographic and usage questions were answered by the participants. The usage of social networking sites is linked to the age group of the sample. With an average age of 30.35 years sites such as Facebook have a higher age profile than Bebo for example. Research could be carried out to investigate the difference in traits with regard to personality, communication style, mental and physical health across these major different social networks. The amount of time spent online for work was greater than for personal reasons, again a factor of the higher age group. This could be a contributing factor to the insignificant difference in time spent online and GWB. Research could be carried out to look across all developmental stages from the play years through emergent adulthood through to late adulthood looking specifically at the use of technology and its impact on the mental health of the population. There is an opportunity to make a comparative analysis of the mental health of those who have spent the majority of their life without technology in a specific culture with those of a younger generation in the same culture who have technology intertwined throughout their lives. The question was put forth to the participants as to whether they perceived blogging as more or less revealing than social networking sites. People in the vast majority stated that
they felt blogs were far more revealing. Blogs as compared to social networking sites are not so interlinked, interactive nor orientated to external events and are underestimated as individualistic, intimate forms of self-expression (Herring, Scheidt, Wright & Bonus, 2005). Further work is required to determine the psychological aspects of communication, Online disinhibition, Dissociative anonymity, asynchronicity, solipsistic introjections, dissociative imagination, and privacy on the internet (Suler, 2004). The participants’ response certainly agrees with research carried out by Qian and Scott (2007) where increased visual anonymity is not associated with greater self-disclosure. It would be interesting to measure this fear of self-disclosure in writing as compared to the copious amount of surveys, questionnaires, personality quizzes, intelligence tests and so forth on the social networking sites. Further work supporting the concepts put forward by Rosen (2007) and Buffardi and Campbell (2008) regarding narcissism and self-promoting content online and people’s attitude to blogging and social networking could yield some interesting results. Widyanto and McMurran (2004) have shown the validity of the Internet Addiction Test as put forth by Young (1996). Byun, Ruffini, et al (2008) however, they note that there is an inconsistent measurement of internet addiction, sampling bias, with exploratory rather than confirmatory data analysis investigating degree of association rather than causal relationships among variables. This is an area of research that could be tied to further analysis of the use of blogs and social networks. This thesis found that there is a significant difference in general health and vitality compared across the amount of hours spent online for work and further experimentation could be designed to see whether there is a positive or negative effect on health by providing or restricting internet access in the workplace. This could be correlated with productivity, motivation and other measurements of mental and physical health for employees.
The experiment makes use of an online internet survey tool called SurveyMonkey. Buchanan, (2000) and Skitka and Sargis (2005) detail the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the using such an internet survey but as Schmidt (1997), Birnbaum (2001) and Kraut (2004) state we must be careful that selection bias has not occurred. Due to the online and distancebased nature of email communication there was no easy way to determine if respondents understood clearly the instructions and guidelines provided (Kraut, 2004). Furthermore participants may have carried out the experiment under less than ideal conditions such as Skitka and Sargis (2005) outline such as participating in collusion with others, under distracting conditions or without spending the suggested 15 minute period on carrying out the expressive writing protocol. As the experiment took place solely over the internet and instructions were given out via email as Corter and Petrie (2008) note the confessional setting and personal delivery of writing instructions contributes to greater engagement in expressive writing as participants attribute the intimacy of their disclosures to the setting in which they write. This research would suggest that for further research instructions should be made in person to give more weight and emphasis on the use of expressive writing. The instructions provided could be more narrowly defined and Sloan, Marx and Epstein (2005) found that written disclosure with instructions to write about the same traumatic event over time, a different traumatic event or non-traumatic event had most benefit not from what the disclosure was about but rather that the writing was about a single event. The instructions about blogging required the participants to purely use text in their blogs. Blogging allows for the use of many different types of media and an experiment could be designed following the model laid out here to look at the effectiveness of different media types in expression, communication and therapy. The experiment made no analysis of the content in the diaries and blogs other than obtaining a general percentage of content type in terms of two narrow areas of work and / or personal content. Further research can be carried
out with regard to the content of the blogs and online forums in use today, Taylor (2007) looked at the value of narrative and computational linguistics, content and style and extracting meaning by comparing texts. Similarly Liess, Simon et al (2008) determined if video coding, human text coding and automated text coding provided consistent estimates of the level of emotional expression in breast cancer support groups and found that human textcoding significantly overestimated positive affect and underestimated defensive/hostile affect compared with video coding. Rude, Gortner and Pennebaker (2004) made text analysis of content written by a depressed sample and found more negatively valence words and the word ‘I’ more often. Work such as this could be extended into and applied directly to the large number of users of social networks and blogging. Future work extending this thesis could take the form of investigating the benefits of the use of blogging as a form of communication within an organization, to a specialized audience or to the general population as a whole. This could be compared with having a presence on social networking sites such as LinkedIn which have a strong emphasis on enhancing business connections. Blogging as part of a collective and forming a grouping of like-minded people could be compared to blogging in silence to ascertain the psychological benefits of blogging as a dialogue versus blogging as a form of insular reflection. The use and effectiveness of communicating with disaffected youth via the internet or the use of the interactive elements of the web in terms of drawing, colors, sounds, video as a means of play therapy could be investigated also. Moreover the different forms of social communication that occur online could be investigated and the correlates of personality and mental health examined. This would take the form of forums, which are based on equality of users, blogs which are akin to a keynote speech with a single blogger at the helm and social networks which organize groups around topics.
Mora, Nevid and Chaplin (2008) report that psychologists were sent out a survey to endorse email, individual chat, group chat and video conferencing. Those psychologists surveyed provided low levels of endorsement of internet-based services although cognitivebehaviorally-orientated practitioners more strongly endorsed use of internet than psychoanalytical-orientated practitioners. Care must be taken to not frustrate and inhibit the work of therapists but Johnmar (2008) has suggested that physicians have growing frustration with internet empowered patients, with a wealth of information but a lack of expertise to interpret and apply it correctly. The research undertaken related to the general population and did not pre-screen participants prior to intervention, other than access and basic knowledge of the internet. As Oravec (2000) points out counselors should ensure that clients are intellectually, emotionally and physically capable of using technology. It was also noted that care is needed to not perceive technology as utopian, efficient and all-encompassing. Therapist-led and self-directed online therapies indicate significant alleviation of disorderrelated symptomatology according to Ybarra and Eaton, (2005) but more work is required in child disorders. The research carried out here could be directed towards a younger population to ascertain how age factors into the use of blogging as an effective intervention. Taking the results as analysed above and applying them to the hypotheses put forward in this research it was found that in the majority no significant relationship could be found between the intervention undertaken and the GWB measurement pre and post experiment. However there is merit in this result as it adds to the extensive research already carried out in expressive writing and online therapy and puts forth that for a stable population with average extroversion, neuroticism scores, low psychoticism scores and average FNE scores blogging does not positively or importantly negatively affect the GWB of that sample population. The aim of the research was to relate EPQ, FNE and the expressive writing protocol and to determine if there is any effect on the GWB scores of the sample population. This has been
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Table 5 – Normality using Kolmogorov-Smirnov
Variable Psychoticism Extroversion Neuroticism GWB at time A GWB at time B FNE
Result Z=0.794, 2-tailed, p > 0.05 Z=0.906, 2-tailed, p > 0.05 Z=0.723, 2-tailed, p > 0.05 Z=0.441, 2-tailed, p > 0.05 Z=0.610, 2-tailed, p > 0.05 Z=0.737, 2-tailed, p > 0.05
Table 6 - Paired Sample t-test for Subscales of GWB measurement for time A vs. time B.
Variable Anxiety Depression Self-Control General Health
Result t(30)=0.500, 2-tailed, p > 0.05. t(30)=-0.407, 2-tailed, p > 0.05. t(30)=-1.524, 2-tailed, p > 0.05. t(30)=-0.078, 2-tailed, p > 0.05.
Table 7 - Mann Whitney to compare variables under measurement according to differences in sex.
Variable Extroversion Neuroticism GWB at time A GWB at time B FNE
Result Z=-0.244, 2-tailed, p > 0.05 Z=-1.447, 2-tailed, p > 0.05 Z=--0.750, 2-tailed, p > 0.05 Z=--0.649, 2-tailed, p > 0.05 Z=--0.101, 2-tailed, p > 0.05
Table 8 - Kruskal-Wallis to compare vars across the experimental groups of control, diary and blog.
Variable Psychoticism Extroversion FNE
Result (2) =3.0339, p > 0.05 (2) = 0.6813, p > 0.05 (2) = 4.091,p > 0.05
Table 9 - ANOVA- mean scores differences grouped by personal, both or work issues.
Variable Psychoticism Extroversion Neurosticism GWB at time A GWB at time B FNE
Result F(2) = 1.896, 2-tailed, p > 0.05 F(2) = 0.857, 2-tailed, p > 0.05 F(2) = 0.306, 2-tailed, p > 0.05 F(2) = 0.228, 2-tailed, p > 0.05 F(2) = 0.624, 2-tailed, p > 0.05 F(2) = 0.879, 2-tailed, p > 0.05
Table 10 - Pearson correlation - strength of correlation between the experimental group and variables
Variable Psychoticism Extroversion Neurosticism GWB at time A GWB at time B FNE
Result r = -0.297, 2-tailed, p > 0.05 r = 0.024, 2-tailed, p > 0.05 r = 0.328, 2-tailed, p > 0.05 r = -0.241, 2-tailed, p > 0.05 r = -0.243, 2-tailed, p > 0.05 r = 0.055, 2-tailed, p > 0.05
Table 11 - Pearson correlation strength of correlation between the age and variables
Variable Psychoticism Extroversion Neurosticism GWB at time A GWB at time B FNE
Result r = -0.048, 2-tailed, p > 0.05 r = 0.138, 2-tailed, p > 0.05 r = -0.047, 2-tailed, p > 0.05 r = 0.040, 2-tailed, p > 0.05 r = 0.036, 2-tailed, p > 0.05 r = -0.012, 2-tailed, p > 0.05
Table 12 - Pearson correlation strength of correlation between the sex and variables
Variable Extroversion Neurosticism GWB at time A GWB at time B FNE
Result r =0.094, 2-tailed, p > 0.05 r =0.270, 2-tailed, p > 0.05 r =-0.177, 2-tailed, p > 0.05 r =-0.127, 2-tailed, p > 0.05 r =0.030, 2-tailed, p > 0.05
Table 13 - Pearson correlation tests strength of correlation between psychoticism and variables
Variable GWB at time A GWB at time B FNE
Result r =0.197, 2-tailed, p > 0.05 r =0.199, 2-tailed, p > 0.05 r =-0.328, 2-tailed, p > 0.05
Table 14 - Pearson correlation strength of correlation between extroversion and variables
Variable GWB at time A GWB at time B FNE
Result r =0.237, 2-tailed, p > 0.05 r =0.169, 2-tailed, p > 0.05 r =-0.317, 2-tailed, p > 0.05
Table 15 - Pearson correlation strength of correlation between the percentage about work issues
Variable GWB at time A GWB at time B
Result r =-0.181, 2-tailed, p > 0.05 r =-0.285, 2-tailed, p > 0.05
Table 16 - Pearson correlation strength of correlation between the percentage about personal issues
Variable GWB at time A GWB at time B
Result r =0.145, 2-tailed, p > 0.05 r =0.267, 2-tailed, p > 0.05
Table 17 - Pearson correlation between EPQ and FNE and the difference in GWB time A to time B