"It's too much": Excessive smartphone use during the COVID-19 crisis, information overload, and infection self-efficacy

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During the COVID-19-related lockdowns around the world, individuals received a permanent digital stream of information about the pandemic via their smartphones. We theorize that such excessive COVID-19-related smartphone use can affect information overload, i.e., the perception of being exposed to too much information about COVID-19. We also introduce the notion of infection self-efficacy, the feeling that one is able to control the likelihood of being infected. We conducted a two-wave panel survey among an adult sample in Austria (N T2 = 416) during the first lockdown in 2020. Findings of a metric measurement invariant structural equation model revealed that excessive smartphone use predicts information overload over time. Moreover, information overload resulted in lower infection self-efficacy after one month. Reciprocal effects showed that information overload at T1 also increased excessive smartphone use at T2, suggesting a spiral. However, infection self-efficacy did not predict information overload and excessive smartphone use over time. Our findings contribute to the literature on information processing mechanisms by providing clear evidence for the reciprocal relationship between excessive smartphone use and information overload over time. The findings are also important for health scholarship because they explain individuals’ perceptions about whether they are able to protect themselves from COVID-19.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102119
JournalTelematics and Informatics
Early online date6 Mar 2024
Publication statusPublished - May 2024

Austrian Fields of Science 2012

  • 508007 Communication science


  • Adults
  • COVID-19
  • Excessive smartphone use
  • Infection self-efficacy
  • Information overload
  • Panel study

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