Motivation and emotion/Book/2017/Mobile phone addiction

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Mobile phone addiction:
What motivates addictive mobile phone use?


Mobile phone addiction chronic and dependent use of a mobile phone that interferes with the user's ability to function in a normal way. This may be expressed with problematic behaviors. These problematic behaviors can include obsessive mobile phone use, engaging with a mobile phone instead of engaging in social interaction and risky mobile phone use such as using it while driving or at other times when you should be focusing on something more important. Another issue is that because the use of mobile phones has become so normalized not many people are aware that their mobile phone use can have a debilitating effect on their behavior and social interactions.

The motivational theory that fits most with addictive mobile phone use is the uses and gratification theory [grammar?] this is because of the sub categories within in that a broad enough to encompass the diversity of reasons people use their mobile phone [grammar?] these needs are: cognitive needs, Affective needs, Personal integrative needs, Social integrative needs and Tension free needs. This theory also is based around how people interact with media instead of how the media they interact with affects them. For the ways in which the media can change the person interacting with it can be explained with the dopamine loop and intermittent reinforcement schedule[grammar?].

The reasons for mobile phone addiction is[grammar?] diverse and can be understood for many reasons however the exact cause for this mass consumption is multifaceted [grammar?] Because mobile phones are viewed as not only an item for entertainment purposes but also a resource or tool that can be used in a variety of ways such as work, checking maps, calendars and many other organizational needs. There are also a number of social needs that a mobile phone can fulfill such as SMS messaging, checking in with friends on Facebook and accessing mini blogs of current events on Twitter. Also with the diverse range of applications that you can download a user is able to find any product they need to fill their niche that they desire.

What is mobile phone addiction?[edit]

Problematic mobile phone use has generally been considered as a behavioral addiction that shares many features with established drug addictions[factual?]. This is because it is akin to other addictive behaviors in terms of cognitive salience, loss of control, mood modification, tolerance, withdrawal, conflict and relapse[factual?].

Mobile phone addiction does not have a firm definition as it is not currently in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) [grammar?] it is usually categorized under internet addiction as mobile phone use can be a portal into the internet world[factual?]. This is because it is not accurately a clinical addiction and more of a compulsive disorder[factual?]. There are many reasons for a persons[grammar?] need to use their mobile phone. However some of the most likely reasons for the use of mobile phone is to feel interconnected with others with sites like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat. These people are what is known as broadcasters that share their life with others this leads to them feeling more interconnected with others. This is further complimented with a dopamine hit to reward their behavior. Also the desire to search out new information and media is also rewarded with a dopamine hit as the user acquires new information or responds to alerts and notifications[grammar?].

Depression among smartphone users was a prevalent factor in a study conducted [grammar?] Hong et al (2012) in their research they found that low self-esteem may predict problematic mobile phone usage, extreme mobile phone usage and mobile phone engagement. In their studies[factual?] it was shown that there were significant relationships between high extraversion, high anxiety and a teenagers[grammar?] low self-esteem with mobile phone addiction and that the stronger the teenagers[grammar?] mobile phone addiction the more likely it is that the individual will have more [what?] interactions for a longer duration on their cell phone.

Even though cell phone addiction is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th edition (DSM-5) addiction must cause significant harm to the individual's life and has to have at least four or more of the following symptoms to comprise the criteria for cell phone addiction according to

  • A need to use the cell phone more often in order to achieve the same desired effect.
  • Persistent failed attempts to use cell phone less often.
  • Preoccupation with smartphone use.
  • Turns to cell phone when experiencing unwanted feelings such as anxiety or depression.
  • Excessive use characterized by loss of sense of time.
  • Has put a relationship or job at risk due to excessive cell phone use.
  • Need for the newest cell phone, more applications, or increased use.

It has been rumored that the new DSM will include an appendix that promote [grammar?] further inquiry into internet addiction [grammar?] this will be expanded to include any device that can access the internet and generates responsive behavior which may give the user obsessive compulsive disorders (OCD) which may contribute to attention deficit disorder (ADD) like behaviors.

Currently there are about 2 billion people around the world using smartphones that have an internet connection. It is estimated that between 10-12% of smartphone users would be classified as addicted to their cell phones. However in a survey conducted by Greenfield (2013) it was found that around 90% of Americans fell in that category of addiction. Furthermore in a recent study by common sense media they found that 50% of teens self reported that they felt that they were addicted to their devices.

Primack (2016) found that in a survey that comprised of 1800 young adults between the ages of 19-32 years found that the people that checked their social media more frequently than their counterparts were 2.7 times more likely to suffer from depression that the counterparts that checked their social media less often. In an interview on the all in the mind podcast Brian Primack[factual?] suggested that the cause of this may be because people who are exposed to highly idealized versions of their peers on social media may have a distorted belief that everyone else is leading a happier more realized life and therefore cause envy. In a survey by gallup poll it was shown that out of mobile phone owners 52% check their social media a few times an hour or more.

In a series of polls related to smartphone use released by Gallup, [grammar?] found that about half of smartphone users check their phones several times an hour or more. 81% of people said they keep their phones near them "almost all the time during waking hours" and 63% do so even when they're sleeping. The condition is especially severe among the younger participants as one-in-five of whom were surveyed admit to "checking their phone every few minutes".

Why do people get addicted to mobile phone use?[edit]

Figure 1. A young girl enjoying using her smartphone

Cell phone addiction may not be an official psychological diagnosis according to the DSM-5 however it is comparable to a gambling addiction. This is because cell phones operate on a variable reinforcement schedule where every once in a while you get a reward which may be a piece of information [grammar?] for example a text and email or an update. These updates are seen as pleasurable to your brain as you acquire new information however you don't know when you are going to get it, what it's going to be or if it is a good interaction or not. These updates are seen as rewards to your brain and trigger a dopamine release. Dopamine [grammar?]which controls the pleasure centers in your brain when you get this hit of dopamine it feels good makes you want to seek out the cause of whatever released that hit of dopamine. This then turns into what is known as a dopamine loop [grammar?] this is because once you get conditioned to feel good from receiving these updates you start actively seeking them out and then you get rewarded for finding whatever content you are seeking out and you get stuck in a loop of constantly seeking out new content[Rewrite to improve clarity]

Uses and gratification theory[edit]

The uses and gratification theory[factual?] is pertinent to mobile phone addiction because it attempts to answer the question of why do people use media and what for? This theory can be defined simply as what people do with media rather than what that media does to the people using it. There are five categories that define uses and gratification theory [grammar?] these categories are:

Cognitive needs which relate to information gathering to increase an individuals[grammar?] own knowledge which is distinct from user to user. Affective needs is the second category and it relates to the emotional and pleasure contentment of the individual this [grammar?] can be exemplified with scenarios of getting likes on a post or picture that you put online. The third category is personal integrative needs which relates to self esteem where people can gain credibility and status among their peers. The fourth category is Social integrative needs which can be summarized as the way we relate with the broader society itself with family and friends. The way in which an individual integrates themselves socially is by engaging in what the current trend is [grammar?] the newest brand of phone for example or the current app that everyone is currently playing. The fifth and final need is called Tension free needs. This is when and[grammar?] individual seeks escape from the frustrations from everyday life the user regress[grammar?] into their safe space and escape from the reality of the things that are causing them distress.

Another factor to consider is the development of context relevant memory which is a reward based learning system so with technology it can be defined as having a frustration, then becoming distracted by using mobile phone systems, then feeling relief of frustrations because of the distraction from your frustrations[Rewrite to improve clarity][factual?].

Quiz questions[edit]

In this "Smartphone abuse test" developed by Greenfield (2013) you will be able to get an understanding of the ways you may be negatively interacting with your smartphone and if you are at risk of being an addict.

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1 Do you find yourself spending more time on your smartphone than you realize?


2 Do you find yourself mindlessly passing time on a regular basis by staring at your smartphone even though there might be better or more productive things to do?


3 Do you seem to lose track of time when on your cell phone?


4 Do you find yourself spending more time texting, tweeting, or emailing as opposed to talking to real-time people?


5 Has the amount of time you spend on your cell phone been increasing?


6 Do you secretly wish you could be a little less wired or connected to your cell phone?


7 Do you sleep with your smartphone on or under your pillow or next to your bed regularly?


8 Do you find yourself viewing and answering texts, tweets, and emails at all hours of the day and night, even when it means interrupting other things you are doing?


9 Do you text, email, tweet, or surf the internet while driving or doing other similar activities that require your focused attention and concentration?


10 Do you feel your use of your cell phone actually decreases your productivity at times?


11 Do you feel reluctant to be without your smartphone, even for a short time?


12 When you leave the house, you ALWAYS have your smartphone with you and you feel ill-at-ease or uncomfortable when you accidentally leave your smartphone in the car or at home, or you have no service, or it is broken?


13 When your phone rings, beeps, buzzes, do you feel an intense urge to check for texts, tweets, or emails, updates, etc.?


14 Do you find yourself mindlessly checking your phone many times a day even when you know there is likely nothing new or important to see?


If you answered "True" on any of these questions you may be at risk of addiction to your mobile phone.


Unfortunately because mobile phone addiction is such a new phenomena there are not many treatments or therapies that are specific to the issue of mobile phone addiction. However there has been an uptick in the modification of existing treatments such as: Individual therapy where you meet with a therapist and talk about the issues you may be having. Another treatment is Cognitive-behavioral therapy which is aimed at changing your thoughts and feeling when it comes to addictive mobile phone use so that you can start to have more positive interactions with your phone behavior. Some other preexisting treatments that may be helpful in combating negative phone use are anonymous groups for tech addiction and camps that you go into the wilderness without technology and have a digital detox.[factual?]


Although mobile phones may be a great way to keep in contact with close friends and family and also the worldwide community [grammar?] may seem like a liberating experience however chronic use can have a paradoxical effect by isolating you from the more proximal relationships in the real world[factual?]. Hopefully in the future when we find ourselves wanting to connect to people we can search out those relationships close to us in the real world instead of seeking them out in the virtual world from the safety of our smart screens[how?].

See also[edit]



SpringerLink. Retrieved from

Billieux, J. (2014, November 4). Problematic Use of the Mobile Phone: A Literature Review and a Pa...: Ingenta Connect. Retrieved from /2012/00000008/00000004/art00011

Billieux, J., Maurage, P., Lopez-Fernandez, O., Kuss, D. and Griffiths, M. (2015). Can Disordered Mobile Phone Use Be Considered a Behavioral Addiction? An Update on Current Evidence and a Comprehensive Model for Future Research. Current Addiction Reports, 2(2), pp.156-162. (2017). Dealing with Devices: The Parent-Teen Dynamic | Common Sense Media. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 Oct. 2017].

Greenfield, D. (2013). Smartphone Abuse Test. Retrieved November 30, 2015, from

Hong, F., Chiu, S., & Huang, D. (2012, November). A model of the relationship between psychological characteristics, mobile phone addiction and use of mobile phones by Taiwanese university female students - ScienceDirect. Retrieved from

IGI Global. Retrieved from


Leung, L. (2015). Mobile Phone Addiction: Media and Communication IS&T Book Chapter

Lin, L., Sidani, J., Shensa, A., Radovic, A., Miller, E., Colditz, J., Hoffman, B., Giles, L. and Primack, B. (2016). ASSOCIATION BETWEEN SOCIAL MEDIA USE AND DEPRESSION AMONG U.S. YOUNG ADULTS. Depression and Anxiety, 33(4), pp.323-331

Motoharu Takao, Susumu Takahashi, and Masayoshi Kitamura. CyberPsychology & Behavior. October 2009, 12(5): 501-507.

Przybylski, A. and Weinstein, N. (2012). Can you connect with me now? How the presence of mobile communication technology influences face-to-face conversation quality. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 30(3), pp.237-246

Sahin, S., Ozdemir, K., Unsal, A., & Temiz, N. (2013, August). Evaluation of mobile phone addiction level and sleep quality in university students. Retrieved from

Salehan, M., & Negahban, A. (2013, November). Social networking on smartphones: When mobile phones become addictive - ScienceDirect. Retrieved from

External links[edit]