Challenging the concept of smartphone addiction: An empirical pilot study of smartphone usage patterns and psychological well-being
Lowe-Calverley, E and Pontes, H, Challenging the concept of smartphone addiction: An empirical pilot study of smartphone usage patterns and psychological well-being, Cyberpsychology, behavior and social networking, 23, (8) pp. 550-556. ISSN 2152-2715 (2020) [Refereed Article]
Smartphone use is ubiquitous, however, scholarly debate regarding the addictive nature of smartphones abounds. In this context, it is integral to distinguish between the content that users experience and the medium that facilitates access to the former, as users may experience addictive-like responses to the specific activities they engage in through the context experienced rather than the device that facilitates access to these activities. The present study aimed to explore conceptualizations of smartphone addiction by (a) investigating user preferences for specific smartphone functionalities, (b) examining behavioral changes associated with limited access to preferred functionalities, and (c) exploring links between aspects of smartphone use and self-reported psychological well-being. A total of 471 participants completed an online survey, providing data on sociodemographics, actual and hypothetical smartphone usage, and psychological well-being (depression, anxiety, and stress symptoms). The results showed that communication functionalities were most frequently cited as being preferred among smartphone users. Notably, participants reported that they would check their smartphones significantly fewer times if their top-three functionalities were inaccessible. This suggests that smartphone users are likely to become addicted to the functionalities they access on their smartphones (content) and not the smartphones themselves (medium), rendering unviable the notion of smartphone addiction as a construct. Further analyses suggested negligible to small correlations between aspects of smartphone use and psychological well-being variables. The findings imply that rather than focusing on frequency of smartphone use, it is recommended that future research examines the type and quality of specific smartphone usages and their effects on user well-being.