Cell Phones, Like Credit Cards, Are Addictive

Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

It might not come as a surprise that one can be addicted to a cell phone. These little devices are never too far from their owner and are often the first thing their owner sees in the morning and the last thing touched just before falling asleep. Smartphones likely have an even stronger effect, keeping users plugged into social pipelines and that other addictive substance, the Internet.

Today, one Texas university is challenging the notion that behavioral addictions and substance addictions are two separate afflictions.

According to a new study conducted by Baylor University, cell phone and instant messaging addictions are similar to credit card addiction and other pathologies.

Dr. James Roberts, author of the new study, worked together with Dr. Stephen Pirog III, and has had this study published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions.

“Cell phones are a part of our consumer culture,” explained Dr. Roberts, 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.”

According to Drs. Roberts and Pirog´s study, our impulsive and materialistic natures drive cell phone addictions, saying these devices act as both ritual and pacifier for the impulsive consumer.

It´s this impulsiveness, says Dr. Roberts, that behavioral and substance abuse have in common.

Materialism, while not altogether a bad thing, is what helps us make decisions as consumers. When this is considered with the increased use of cell phones, we can get a better picture of why people become addicted to their mobile devices.

This new study cites previous research which suggests the average young adult sends nearly 110 text messages a day, while receiving 113 texts daily. Every day, the average young adult will check their cell phone 60 times and spend nearly 7 hours interacting with their phone in one way or another.

“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,” said Dr. Roberts in the press release.

To gather data for this study, Drs. Roberts and Pirog asked 191 business students at two American universities to respond to a survey about their cell phone usage. More than 90% of American college students have cell phones and, according to Dr. Roberts, these devices “serve more than just a utilitarian purpose.”

Cell phones are accessible at nearly every hour of the day and college students especially are never too far from these devices. Dr. Roberts noted these students are likely to pull out their phones during class time and, as their functionality expands, it´s likely we´ll be using our cell phones more and more in the coming years.

In closing, Dr. Roberts said the majority of young people he´s spoken with have said losing their cell phone would be “disastrous to their social lives.”

While many have accepted that substance addiction can be a real affliction, Dr. Roberts said fewer people are willing to recognize behavioral addiction can be just as dangerous. If this is the case, it only makes sense we should be cautious when it comes to how much time we spend with our cell phones.