Modern life seems to keep extending the list of possible addictions. Besides old-fashioned addictions to alcohol and drugs, people are now addicted to sex and the Internet. Now a researcher at Baylor University is adding cell phone addiction to the list.
"Cell phones are a part of our consumer culture," said study author James Roberts, Ph.D., professor of marketing at Baylor's Hankamer School of Business. "They are not just a consumer tool, but are used as a status symbol. They're also eroding our personal relationships."
Roberts says cell phone and instant messaging addictions are driven by materialism and impulsiveness and can be compared with consumption pathologies like compulsive buying and credit card misuse. He says cell phones are used as part of the conspicuous consumption ritual and also act as a pacifier for the impulsive tendencies of the user. And it's impulsiveness, he says, that plays an important role in both behavioral and substance addictions.
Roberts' study, co-written with Stephen Pirog III, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of the department of marketing at Seton Hall University, also found that materialism helps drive cell phone addiction.
Roberts says materialism is an important consumer value that affects many of the decisions we make as consumers. It's so pervasive we hardly notice it.
At the same time, he says cell phone use and over-use have become so common that it is important to have a better understanding of what drives these types of technological addictions.
Previous studies have shown that young adults send an average of 109.5 text messages a day or approximately 3,200 texts each month. They receive 113 text messages and check their cell 60 times in a typical day and, on average, college students spend approximately seven hours a day interacting with information and communication technology.
"At first glance, one might have the tendency to dismiss such aberrant cell phone use as merely youthful nonsense -- a passing fad. But an emerging body of literature has given increasing credence to cell phone addiction and similar behavioral addictions," Roberts said.
Roberts and Pirog gathered research for their study by surveying 191 business students at two U.S. universities. They estimate that 90 percent of students use the devices.