Excessive dependence on mobile social apps: A rational addiction perspective

Hyeokkoo Eric Kwon, Hyunji So, Sang Pil Han, Wonseok Oh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Scopus citations


Drawing on the rational addiction framework, this study explores the digital vulnerabilities driven by dependence on mobile social apps (e.g., social network sites and social games). Rational addicts anticipate the future consequences of their current behaviors and attempt to maximize utility from their intertemporal consumption choices. Conversely, myopic addicts tend toward immediate gratification and fail to fully recognize the future consequences of their current consumption. In lieu of conducting self-report surveys or aggregatelevel demand estimation, this research examines addictive behaviors on the basis of consumption quantity at an individual level. To empirically validate rational addiction in the context of social app consumption, we collect and analyze 13-month, individual-level panel data on the weekly app usage of thousands of smartphone users. Results indicate that the average social app user conducts herself in a forward-looking manner and rationally adjusts consumption over time to derive optimal utility. The subgroup analysis, however, indicates that substantial variations in addictiveness and forward-looking propensities exist across demographically diverse groups. For example, addictive behaviors toward social network sites are more myopic in nature among older, less-educated, high-income groups. Additionally, the type of social app moderates the effects of demographic characteristics on the nature of addictive behaviors. We provide implications that policymakers can use to effectively manage mobile addiction problems, with the recommendations focusing on asymmetric social policies (e.g., information- and capacity-enhancing measures).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)919-939
Number of pages21
JournalInformation Systems Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2016


  • Addiction
  • App consumption
  • Digital vulnerability
  • Econometrics
  • IT and health impact
  • Mobile
  • Mobile social apps
  • Myopic addiction
  • Panel data
  • Rational addiction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management Information Systems
  • Information Systems
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Information Systems and Management
  • Library and Information Sciences


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