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10.1016_j.heliyon.2023.e15745.pdf (2.23 MB)

The interplay between social media use and problematic internet usage: Four behavioral patterns

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journal contribution
submitted on 2024-01-25, 06:55 and posted on 2024-01-25, 06:56 authored by Khansa Chemnad, Maryam Aziz, Samir Brahim Belhaouari, Raian Ali


The study aims to identify typical interplay between the use of social media apps on smartphones and Problematic Internet Usage (PIU).


Our study utilizes data from a smartphone app that objectively monitors user usage, including the apps used and the start and finish times of each app session. This study included 334 participants who declared a need to be aware of their smartphone usage and control it. Problematic Internet Usage (PIU) was measured using the Problematic Internet Use Questionnaire-Short Form-6 (PIUQ-SF6). The total PIU score can range from 6 to 30, with a score above 15 indicating that a person is at risk of PIU. Time spent on Social Media (SM) apps of Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram, and whether people used each of these apps were studied along with the total PIU score. K-Prototype clustering was utilized for the analysis.


Four distinct clusters, typifying the relationship between social media use and PIU, were identified. All the individuals in Cluster 1 (Light SM Use Cluster; Cluster size = 270, 80.84% of total dataset) spent between 0 and 109.01 min on Instagram, between 0 and 69.84 min on Facebook, and between 0 and 86.42 min on WhatsApp and its median PIU score was 17. Those who were in cluster 2 (Highly Visual SM Cluster; Cluster size = 23, 6.89% of total dataset) all used Instagram, and each member spent between 110 and 307.63 min on Instagram daily. The cluster median PIU score and average daily usage of Instagram were respectively 20 and 159.66 min. Those who were in Cluster 3 (Conversational SM Cluster; Cluster size = 19, 5.69% of total dataset) all used WhatsApp, and spent between 76.68 and 225.22 min on WhatsApp daily. The cluster median PIU score and average time spent per day on WhatsApp were 20 and 132.65 min, respectively. Those who were in Cluster 4 (Social Networking Cluster; (Cluster size = 22, 6.59% of total dataset) all used Facebook, and each spent between 73.09 and 272.85 min daily on Facebook. The cluster median PIU score and average time spent per day on Facebook were 18 and 133.61 min respectively.


The clusters indicate that those who use a particular social media app spend significantly less time on other social media apps. This indicates that problematic attachment to social media occurs primarily for one of three reasons: visual content and reels, conversations with peers, or surfing network content and news. This finding will help tailor interventions to fit each cluster, for example by strengthening interpersonal skills and resistance to peer pressure in the case of Cluster 3 and increasing impulse control in the case of Cluster 2.

Other Information

Published in: Heliyon
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Open Access funding provided by the Qatar National Library.



  • English



Publication Year

  • 2023

License statement

This Item is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Institution affiliated with

  • Hamad Bin Khalifa University
  • College of Science and Engineering - HBKU

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