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Smartphones Promise Satisfaction and Meaning, Deliver Only More Searching

Accepted submission by hubie at 2022-10-03 13:02:20
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Researchers at Baylor and Campbell universities found that smartphone users seeking meaning and purpose through their devices and social media could experience the opposite [baylor.edu]:

Smartphone users will be disappointed if they expect their devices and social media to fill their need for purpose and meaning. In fact, it will probably do the opposite, researchers at Baylor and Campbell Universities found in a recently published study.

[...] The researchers' results provide a sociological link to the psychological studies that point to connections between digital devices and media use with feelings of loneliness, depression, unhappiness, suicidal ideation and other poor mental health outcomes.

"Human beings are seekers – we seek meaning in our relationships, our work, our faith, in all areas of social life," Pieper said. "As researchers, we were interested in the role that smartphones – and the media they give us instant access to – might be playing in meaning-seeking.

"We conclude that smartphone attachment...could be anomigenic, causing a breakdown in social values because of the unstructured and limitless options they provide for seeking meaning and purpose and inadvertently exacerbate feelings of despair while simultaneously promising to resolve them," Pieper said. "Seeking itself becomes the only meaningful activity, which is the basis of anomie and addiction."

[...] "Our research finds that meaning-seeking is associated with increased smartphone attachment – a feeling that you would panic if your phone stopped working," Nelson said. "Social media use is also correlated with increased feelings of attachment."

[...] A key finding of the study is that this feeling of attachment is highest for those who use social media less often. However, the research found that individuals seeking solace or connection through their phones in shorter spurts might exacerbate attachment.

"What is interesting is this association decreases for the heaviest of social media users," Pieper said. "While we don't know how this group uses social media, it might be that normalized use at the highest levels erases feelings of attachment for the individual – as we put it, it would be like saying one is attached to their eyes or lungs."

Journal Reference:
Justin J. Nelson and Christopher M. Pieper, "Maladies of Infinite Aspiration": Smartphones, Meaning-Seeking, and Anomigenesis, Sociological Perspectives, 2022. DOI: 10.1177/07311214221114296 [doi.org]


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