Excessive Dependence on Mobile Social Apps: A Rational Addiction Perspective
Forthcoming at Information Systems Research Special Issue on Ubiquitous IT and Digital Vulnerabilities
48 Pages Posted: 11 Jan 2016 Last revised: 1 Jun 2016
Date Written: May 31, 2016
Drawing on the rational addiction framework, this study explores the digital vulnerabilities driven by excessive dependence on mobile social apps (e.g., SNS and social games). Rational addicts anticipate the future consequences of their current behaviors and attempt to maximize utility from their intertemporal consumption choices. Conversely, myopic addicts tend toward immediate gratification and fail to fully recognize the future harmful consequences of their current consumption. In lieu of conducting self-report surveys or aggregate-level demand estimation, this research examines addictive behaviors on the basis of consumption quantity at an individual level. To empirically validate rational addiction in the context of social app consumption, we collect and analyze 13-month, individual-level panel data on the weekly app usage of thousands of smartphone users. Results indicate that the average social app user conducts herself in a forward-looking manner and rationally adjusts consumption over time to derive optimal utility. The subgroup analysis, however, indicates that substantial variations in addictiveness and forward-looking propensities exist across demographically diverse groups. For example, addictive behaviors toward SNSs are more myopic in nature among older, less-educated, high-income groups. Additionally, type of social app moderates the effects of demographic characteristics on the nature of addictive behaviors. We provide valuable implications that policymakers can use to effectively manage mobile addiction problems, with the recommendations focusing on asymmetric social policies (e.g., information- and capacity-enhancing measures).
Keywords: rational addiction, myopic addiction, digital vulnerability, IT and health impact, mobile social apps, app consumption, econometrics, panel data
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