The primary objective of the present research is to investigate the drivers of technological addiction in college students — heavy users of Information and Communication Technology (ICT). The study places cell phone and instant messaging addiction in the broader context of consumption pathologies, investigating the influence of materialism and impulsiveness on these two technologies. Clearly, cell phones serve more than just a utilitarian purpose. Cell phones are used in public and play a vital role in the lives of young adults. The accessibility of new technologies, like cell phones, which have the advantages of portability and an ever increasing array of functions, makes their over-use increasingly likely.
College undergraduates (N = 191) from two U.S. universities completed a paper and pencil survey instrument during class. The questionnaire took approximately 15–20 minutes to complete and contained scales that measured materialism, impulsiveness, and mobile phone and instant messaging addiction.
Factor analysis supported the discriminant validity of Ehrenberg, Juckes, White and Walsh's (2008) Mobile Phone and Instant Messaging Addictive Tendencies Scale. The path model indicates that both materialism and impulsiveness impact the two addictive tendencies, and that materialism's direct impact on these addictions has a noticeably larger effect on cell phone use than instant messaging.
The present study finds that materialism and impulsiveness drive both a dependence on cell phones and instant messaging. As Griffiths (2012) rightly warns, however, researchers must be aware that one's addiction may not simply be to the cell phone, but to a particular activity or function of the cell phone. The emergence of multi-function smart phones requires that research must dig beneath the technology being used to the activities that draw the user to the particular technology.