Research has shown that personality traits play an important role in problematic internet use (PIU). However, the relationship between dark personality traits (i.e., Machiavellianism, psychopathy, narcissism, sadism, and spitefulness) and PIU has yet to be investigated. Consequently, the objectives of this study were to investigate the relationships of dark traits with specific online activities (i.e., social media, gaming, gambling, shopping, and sex) and PIU.
A total of 772 university students completed a self-report survey, including the Dark Triad Dirty Dozen Scale, Short Sadistic Impulse Scale, Spitefulness Scale, and an adapted version of the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale.
Hierarchical regression analysis and a multiple mediation model indicated that being male was positively associated with higher online gaming, online sex, and online gambling, and negatively associated with social media and online shopping. Narcissism was related to higher social media use; Machiavellianism was related to higher online gaming, online sex, and online gambling; sadism was related to online sex; and spitefulness was associated with online sex, online gambling, and online shopping. Finally, Machiavellianism and spitefulness were directly and indirectly associated with PIU via online gambling, online gaming, and online shopping, and narcissism was indirectly associated with PIU through social media use.
Findings of this preliminary study show that individuals high in dark personality traits may be more vulnerable in developing problematic online use and that further research is warranted to examine the associations of dark personality traits with specific types of problematic online activities.