Technological Addiction: A trend rooted in generational analysis?

The speed at which technology has been developed over the last century has exponentially grown. This statement is probably the most evident in Moore’s Law which states that the number of transistors on a computer chip doubles every two years [1]. In fact, advancements in technology have always been present throughout the history of mankind.  However, is this influx of technology truly something that conveys the betterment of all mankind, or are there pitfalls that have yet to be discovered? One of these alleged pitfalls being debated is the question about whether society has become technology addicts.

Prior to the widespread availability of mobile computing that enabled the present technological ubiquity, technology was rather limited to where it could be taken. Computers were still rather large objects that could not easily be transported without significant effort, and cellular phones were rather basic devices whose primary, and potentially only, functionality was to make telephone calls. Even with technology being ever-present amongst people, technology was still limited in people’s lives. The introduction of devices such as the Blackberry device in the late 1990s and their niched use by business professionals [2] started to make it evident that the number of people using these devices could be construed to be considered a sign that a transition has begun where devices are being kept on a person. Furthermore, from a biased hindsight perspective, it is easy to point to the above-mentioned transition of people’s increased use of Blackberry devices as a sign that addiction could follow.

While there are many different forms of technology addiction, one of the most prevalent forms has emerged due to the boom of mobile computing and the ability of these devices to travel alongside people. A 2011 Pew Research Center report on “Generations and Their Gadgets,” discussed the prevalence of devices across all generations [3]. It should be noted that the data is from 2010 and the likelihood of the numbers shifting is quite high since the survey was completed nine years ago. It is also likely the existing trends will continue with the expectation that the new “18-34” year old age group continuing to have the highest percentages of adults with devices. It should also be stated that the first iPad was released in January 2010 [4]. Since then, the number of tablet users has reached billions worldwide [5]. The shifting of the age groups since 2011 can be supported by the “smartphone adoption among seniors has nearly quadrupled in the last five years” [6], which demonstrates a substantial increase in usage of devices amongst seniors.

However, such an accusation as stating that society is a technological addict, it is not sufficient enough to provide simple generational trends as evidence. Much research has gone into this understanding of technology addiction and what it means for society itself. In order to first gain such an understanding, a baseline should be set.  The Merridan-Webster dictionary defines an addiction as “a compulsive, chronic, physiological or psychological need for a habit-forming substance, behavior, or activity having harmful physical, psychological, or social effects and typically causing well-defined symptoms (such as anxiety, irritability, tremors, or nausea) upon withdrawal or abstinence” [7]. In order to put this definition into perspective, the average person checks their smartphone 47 times per day [8] with that accumulating to an average of 58 minutes per day spent on their smartphone [9].This leads to reaffirm the findings by Das et. al. that there does exist a correlation between the number of hours spent on a mobile phone and whether there is the possibility that the individual is addicted [10]. This prolonged exposure to mobile technology day in and day out does have its side effects as does anything that is being used inappropriately.  Some of the side effects that have been well-observed include, but are not limited to, stress, anxiety, and misuse [11, 12].  While the previous side effects were more focused on how the addiction affected the individual personally, technology addiction also has the ability to affect a person’s inner circle. This is especially true when it comes to conflicts between the individual and their family. One such hypothetical example of such a conflict could be derived from the continuity of work during the individual’s time at home. With the ease of access that devices now provide, performing tasks such as checking email or communicating through some kind of messenger are nearly effortless. However, this effortlessness from the individual can quickly shift into them becoming solely focused upon the device. If such a deviation of focus from the individual’s family to the various nuances within their employment were to continually reoccur over a course of time, the possibility exists that the seeds of discontent that could be sown until the conflict has grown into something much larger in the future [13].

What attributes to the challenge of having not just the individual, but the near entirety of society, face its addiction is simply the ubiquity of devices amongst those in society. In fact, there is a negative correlation that exists between a person’s age and several various types of technology addiction that inflict people [10]. The younger individuals who are becoming of age to be considered part of the previously mentioned demographic study have lived their entire cognitive lives in the presence of mobile technology [14]. In their eyes, this is how the world was meant to be and anything else is merely a history lesson that they are unable to personally relate to. With that said, the final age bracket of the demographic study will one day be comprised of this generation. At that point in time, will all of this still be considered a technological addiction or simply the present state of affairs for society?

In conclusion, society is gradually changing and integrating technology into each generations’ perceptive status quo. This was demonstrated by the data presented by Zickuhr which brought insight into the trends of device integration amongst the various generations. Once the scale of technology penetration was quantified, it became imperative to set a common understanding of what addiction was and what negative outcomes were being brought forth due to the addiction. This became exceptionally apparent with the age groups due to the negative correlation that existed between the younger and elder generations.


[1] Poeter, D. How Moore’s Law changed history (and your smartphone). PC Magazine, (April 19, 2015).

[2] Cassavoy, L. What is a Blackberry? Lifewire  December 23, 2018).

[3] Zickuhr, K.  Generations and their gadgets. Pew Research Center: Internet & Technology (February 3, 2011).

[4] Wikipedia. (2019, October 6). iPad (1st generation).

[5] Liu, S.  Forecast number of tablet users worldwide 2013-2021. Statista (July 22, 2019).

[6] Anderson, M., and Perrin, A. Tech adoption climbs among older adults. Retrieved from Pew Research Center: Internet & Technology (May 17, 2017).

[7] Merriam Webster. Addiction.

[8] Wolfe, A.  Guess how often you use your phone every day. Journal of Accountancy (April 2, 2018).

[9] Ballve, M.  How much time do we really spend on our smartphones every day?  Business Insider Australia (June 6, 2013).

[10] Das, A., Sharma, M., Thamilselvan, P., and Marimuthu, P.  Technology addiction among treatment seekers for psychological problems: Implication for screening in mental health setting. Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine 39, 1 (2017), 21-27.

[11] Hou, Y., Xiong, D., Jiang, T., Song, L., and Wang, Q.  Social media addiction: Its impact, mediation, and intervention. CyberPsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Reseach on Cyberspace 13,1 (2019), 1-17.

[12] Tarafdar, M., Gupta, A., and Turel, O.  The dark side of information technology use. Info Systems Journal 13, 1(2013)., 269-275. Retrieved from

[13] Turel, O., Serenko, A., and Bontis, N.  Blackberry addiction: Symptoms and outcomes. AMCIS (2008).

[14] Gerhart, N.  Technology addiction: How social network sites impact our lives. Informing Science: The International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline 20 (2017), 179-194.

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About Bryce Belill

Bryce R. Belill graduated from Northwood University in 2010 with a bachelor’s of business administration. He started working in the finance department at Nexteer Automotive in 2011 but ending up transferring into the IT department at the end of 2013 where he has been since. He returned to school in the fall of 2017 where he started to pursue his master’s of computer science and information systems with Saginaw Valley State University. Bryce is am currently planning to graduate in May 2021

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