The internet is often viewed as the source of a myriad of benefits and harms. However, there are problems with using this notion of “the internet” and other high-level concepts to explain the influence of communicating via everyday networked technologies on people and society. Here, we argue that research on social influence in computer-mediated communication (CMC) requires increased precision around how and why specific features of networked technologies interact with and impact psychological processes and outcomes. By reviewing research on the affordances of networked technologies, we demonstrate how the relationship between features of “the internet” and “online behaviour” can be determined by both the affordances of the environment and the psychology of the user and community. To achieve advances in this field, we argue that psychological science must provide nuanced and precise conceptualisations, operationalisations, and measurements of “internet use” and “online behaviour”. We provide a template for how future research can become more systematic by examining how and why variables associated with the individual user, networked technologies, and the online community interact and intersect. If adopted, psychological science will be able to make more meaningful predictions about online and offline outcomes associated with communicating via networked technologies.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103650
JournalActa Psychologica
Early online date27 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded by the Centre for Research and Evidence on Security Threats (Award ES/V002775/1 ), which is funded in part by the United Kingdom security and intelligence services.


  • Affordances
  • Computer-mediated communication
  • Internet
  • Online behaviour
  • Social influence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'The problem with the internet: an affordance-based approach for psychological research on networked technologies'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this