A new study suggests some people can become emotionally attached to their cell phones, primarily because the device is a mobile entertainment source as well as a communication tool.
That panicked feeling we get when the family pet goes missing is the same when we misplace our mobile phone, said a Kansas State University marketing professor. Moreover, those feelings of loss and hopelessness without our digital companion are natural.
“The cell phone’s no longer just a cell phone; it’s become the way we communicate and a part of our life,” said Dr. Esther Swilley.
Swilley’s research interests include studying the phenomenon of how cell phones and other mobile technology are now embedded in our daily life.
One long-term study has Swilley looking at the attitudes people have toward their mobile phone and how these attitudes are influenced by a user’s relationship with their device.
That attachment, called mobile affinity, depends on whether an owner views their cell phone or smartphone as a device that’s more fun than it is functional or vice versa.
To find and collect this data, Swilley observes how Kansas State students use and respond to their phone, as well as surveying students in her marketing course.
According to her data pool, the majority of participants are between ages 19-24, with 52 percent being male. More importantly, 99 percent own a mobile phone.
“Honestly, I’m surprised this wasn’t 100 percent,” Swilley said.
“People share other devices like computers, but cell phones are an interesting thing because we each have our own. That individual ownership is a really big deal for people.”
Swilley found that a majority of the participants said they are attached to their phone because of its functionality as an entertainment device rather than as a tool that can communicate anytime and anywhere.
Among this cohort (college students), games were the most downloaded application for cellphones.
Interestingly, study participants indicated their mobile phone allowed for little to no self-expression. While mobile phone owners have said their phone is a part of themselves, it’s not a way they express themselves, Swilley said.
A future study looking at what makes mobile technology aesthetically pleasing may eventually answer this, however.
With the adoption of more smartphones and the introduction of apps, Swilley has noticed that for many owners, their phone’s entertainment factor has become a source of pride and joy — similar to that of a lovable new pet.
“People don’t turn them off, are constantly playing with them, and want to show off the neat things the phone can do.”
Source: Kansas State University