Impulsive and materialistic young people at higher risk of cell phone 'pathology'
Call me (greedy and capricious), maybe?
A new Baylor University/Seton Hall University study contends that students who are impulsive and materialistic are at heightened risk of cellphone addiction. Relentless cellphone reliance is a "consumption pathology," not unlike compulsive shopping or credit card abuse and some young people view their mobiles as "extensions of the self . . . as well as fashion statements," the researchers wrote.
Previous studies have found that 67% of people aged 18 -- 24 own a smartphone. Research also shows that young adults send an average of 109.5 text messages each day and check their cells 60 times in a typical day.
The "low satisfaction associated with materialistic lifestyles inspires the immediate gratification," derived from fiddling with the devices, wrote researchers James A. Roberts and Stephen F. Pirog, III, noting it was not so much the phones themselves as the functions they performed (texting, messaging, etc.) that inspired reliance. Yet, ironically, the researchers noted in their paper titled, "A preliminary investigation of materialism and impulsiveness as predictors of technological addictions among young adults," the need to maintain "perpetual contact" throughout the day actually undermined their relationships.
Hold the phone, said other experts.
First off, the small study (191 students) was based on self-reported data, meaning it is hardly definitive, noted Jeffrey Stanton, author of "Information Nation" and a professor of information studies at Syracuse University. While IM-ing and texting do not have the emotional richness of other forms of communication, being dependent on technology is not necessarily if the technology is used to further one's emotional, professional and social goals, Stanton continued. "People have met their future spouses," playing video games, he noted. "Does friendship need a face to face component? I don't think so," Stanton said.
However, he allowed, multiple studies involving brain scans show that the reward centers of the brain are stimulated by many "rewarding" activities, even things such as checking your email. These behaviors only become addictions, "when they're interfering with some other important aspect of your life," Stanton said.
"We've got pretty good evidence that falling in love with someone is an addiction, too," added Arthur Aron, a psychology professor at Stonybrook University. Aron, who was en route to San Francisco (where his wife of 40 years lives and works) also suggested dialing back alarm at the study's results. "When couples are separated, Skype and cellphones help them stay together," proving that technology doesn't just hinder, but can help, real life relationships, Aron said.
As for the contention that the cellphones are seen as status symbols, Aron said the devices are now so ubiquitous, "you don't have status if you don't have one."
It's true that constantly attending to one's cellphone can make you less mindful of the people you're physically with, acknowledged Micaela Trotta, 26, of midtown. But, she continued, "no one I'm with ever gets mad because we all do it. We're all on our phones."
-- with Kate Ulrich