Woman with smartphone takes a selfie

Women most susceptible to troubling smartphone addiction, research suggests

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Excessive smartphone use can lead to social and mental problems, and females are especially susceptible to addiction, according to new research.

“Our smartphones have turned into a tool that provides short, quick, immediate satisfaction, which is very triggering,” said Isaac Vaghefi, assistant professor of management information systems at Binghamton University - the State University of New York, who led the study.

“Our neurons get fired and dopamine is being released and over time this makes us acquire a desire for quick feedback and immediate satisfaction. This process also has contributed to developing shorter attention spans and being more and more prone to boredom.”

Vaghefi and his colleagues surveyed 182 college students and asked them to report their daily routine of smartphone usage. Based on the analysis of the responses, they classified the user as one of the following types: Thoughtful, Regular, Highly Engaged, Fanatic and Addict.

Seven per cent identified as ‘addicts’ and 12 per cent identified as ‘fanatics’. Both groups experienced personal, social and workplace problems due to a compulsive need to be on their smartphones.

Overall, these users exhibited signs that could indicate depression, social isolation, social anxiety, shyness, impulsivity and low self-esteem. Females were most likely to exhibit susceptibility to addiction.

‘Technology addiction’ is not an official mental disorder, but the umbrella term refers to addictive behaviour related to social media, excessive texting, information overload, online shopping, gambling, video gaming, online pornography and overall smartphone usage.

“While self-identified ‘addict’ users were in the minority, I predict technology addiction will increase as technology continues to advance and application, game and gadget developers find new ways to ensure users’ long-term engagement with technology," said Vaghefi.

Vaghefi also suggested that if a person recognise any of the following signs, they may wish to consider consulting professional help:

  •     You use technology as a way of escaping problems or relieving feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety or depression.
  •     You ignore what’s happening in real time in favour of what’s happening virtually.
  •     You constantly check your smartphone, even when it doesn’t ring or vibrate.
  •     You get paranoid when you do not have your smartphone with you.

The paper, ‘A typology of user liability to IT addiction’, was published in Information Systems Journal.

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