“I Urgently Need Your Advice”—Digital Stress Experiences and Social Support in Online Forums

Cordula Nitsch, Susanne Kinnebrock


One downside of digitalization is the digital stress that stems from widespread information and communication technologies (ICTs). Previous studies on digital stress have pointed to several ICT-related stressors. However, less is known about how digital stress takes shape in people’s lives and which interventions are perceived to be helpful. We conducted a qualitative content analysis of 50 threads (523 posts) on contemporary digital stress experiences in people’s professional and private lives. Results show that digital stress was mostly caused by other people’s ICT use—not the thread creator’s own use—and often involved interpersonal conflicts. In the professional context, digital stress experiences were mostly related to (expected) permanent availability; in the private context, they referred to the communication behavior of others. In response, informational support (i.e., coping recommendations) clearly outweighed emotional support. Overall, our findings demonstrate that digital stress is more than just an intrapersonal psychological stress reaction caused by digital technologies. It is, namely, a social phenomenon that calls for a broader conceptualization of the traditionally psychological concept of stress.


digital stress, online forums, interpersonal communication, stressors, social support, emotional support, informational support, coping, qualitative content analysis

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