Digital Overload, Coping Mechanisms, and Student Engagement: An Empirical Investigation Based on the S-O-R Framework

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As avid users, university students find themselves immersed in the deluge of content being created and shared on digital platforms, which makes digital overload a significant concern. The present study examines the effects of digital overload on university students’ psychological well-being and how the use of coping mechanisms might help to mitigate some of these effects. The study developed a research model based on the S-O-R (stimulus, organism, response) framework and gathered data from undergraduate students at a major public university in the United Arab Emirates. To minimize the threat of common method bias, data collection was conducted in two rounds separated by two weeks. Hypotheses were tested using a partial least square path modeling approach. The findings show that digital overload causes psychological strains among students such as technostress and exhaustion, which subsequently encourage them to adopt coping mechanisms. The findings also show that the adoption of coping mechanisms is positively associated with student engagement. The study contributes to the literature by shifting the focus away from information overload—emphasizing digital overload instead—and investigating how students can respond to it by using coping mechanisms.