Stanford student survey finds iPhone users hooked and happy

IphonesA survey of about 200 Stanford University undergraduates revealed that almost a third worry about becoming addicted to their iPhones, think they may be using them too much and dread becoming “one of those iPhone people.”

More than a third said that they’d heard complaints they were using their iPhone too much. But nearly three-quarters reported that their iPhones made them happier, and more than half agreed with the statement “I love it.”

Twenty-five percent agreed that their iPhones seemed like an extension of their brain or their being.

The survey was done in the spring of last year by a graduate anthropology class in research methods taught by Professor Tanya Luhrmann. The research subject was suggested by Registrar Tom Black, who was instrumental in creating iStanford, an iPhone app that helps students navigate around campus.

“One of the most striking things we saw in the interviews was just how identified people were with their iPhone,” Luhrmann said. “It was not so much with the object itself, but it had so much personal information that it became a kind of extension of the mind and a means to have a social life. It just kind of captured part of their identity.”

“I think we have not begun to understand the cognitive impact and the social impact” of smartphones, Luhrmann said.

“The other thing that was quite charming was that people anthropomorphized it,” Luhrmann said. “They’d refer to it as ‘my little friend.’ There was this whole dangerously alluring part of it. People worried about being addicted and creating an ‘iPhone widow.’ “

Patrick Gallagher, one of nine graduate students who conducted the survey as part of an exercise in ethnographic research, said the iPhone appeared to be a way for the undergrads to “manage this second identity that emerges on the Internet” through social networking sites and e-mail. The problem is, “they always need to be checking in.” He said some of the students expressed anxiety about achieving a balance between their real and virtual worlds.

None of the graduate students who conducted the survey owned an iPhone, and they felt a “generational gap” between them and the undergraduates they interviewed, Luhrmann said. The registrar got them iPod touches “so they could have a sense of how these things worked.”

Many questions for the survey were developed from interviews with iPhone users.

Almost half the users described themselves as early adopters. About a third saw themselves as light users.
Asked if their iPhone made them “feel cool” when they got it, 74 percent said yes.
And 75 percent said they’d fallen asleep in bed with their iPhone.

Students were asked what they would think if Stanford bought every student an iPhone. Fifty-two percent said they’d be “delighted.” Fifty-five percent agreed with the statement: “That’s SO Stanford.”

(c) 2010, San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.).

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