82nd International Atlantic Economic Conference

October 13 - 16, 2016 | Washington, USA

User heterogeneity in technology use: Too much of a good thing?

Sunday, October 16, 2016: 9:20 AM
Debra Dwyer, Ph.D , University of Stony Brook, Stony Brook, NY
Rachel Kreier, Ph.D , Social Sciences, Saint Joseph's College, Patchogue, NY
The literature on pathological and problematic use of the Internet and cell phones is growing rapidly, with a focus on the prevalence of problematic use and the consequences of that use.  We contribute to this literature by characterizing the nature of problematic use, and analyzing who is at risk for it.  One of our contributions is to conceptualize a model of behavior determining the intensity of technology use for work, social connection, and pleasure, incorporating insights from the literature on rational addiction and its critics. Researchers on problematic technology use have tended to rely on small convenience samples for their data. In contrast, we use large national datasets to re-examine utilization of cell phone and Internet use for multiple purposes. We apply factor analysis to two large, nationally representative datasets. In the 2012 Current Population Survey (CPS) Internet Use Supplement and Educational Supplement data for teens and young adults, we identify five mutually exclusive types of users, and three varieties of technology use. In the 2014 Pew Research Center Omnibus Internet Survey, with respondents from all age groups, we identify two types of users. This second data set also allows us to examine respondents’ perceptions of the problematic effects of technology on society. We use multivariate analysis to uncover attributes of the user and use types. We hypothesize that different usage patterns may correspond to heterogeneity in user type and in the impact of technology use on user outcomes. We find that people can be categorized into technology users based both on intensity of use and on purpose of use. For many of the attributes we examine, empirical results are consistent with our theoretical predictions about the relationship between user attributes and the potential for problematic use.