Currently, more than half of the world uses cell phones as indicated by the mobile penetration rate of 61% that was reached by the end of 2008 (ITU, 2009). As cell phones continue to become a part of our daily life, there is a need to examine how general population’s attitudes towards mobile phones have changed over the last few years.
Now-a-days people consider their mobile phones to be a personal device (Tian, Shi, & Yang, 2009). The appearance of a cell phone and the way it is used in a public setting says a lot about an individual’s preferences and identity. For the weak and elderly cell phones have almost become a necessity, particularly in circumstances where there is some sort of emergency. Tian, Shi, and Yang (2009), a group of researchers at Peking University and at China Academy of Telecom Research of MIIT, have hypothesized that there are three dimensions that characterize our attitudes towards mobile phones: sense of security, sense of self-character extension, and sense of dependence.
Sense of security is the ability of mobile phones to reduce uncertainty and provide feelings of safety for its users. Studies have shown that one of the major reasons why people acquire cell phones is due to their personal security concerns (Totten, Lipscomb, & Cook, 2005). Sense of self-character is the idea that mobile phones are not just devices for communication but they also extend our sense of self (Ling & Yttri, 1999). People change the background images and put special ring tones on their cell phones precisely because they want their phones to reflect their unique identity and character.
Sense of dependence is the notion that some people develop a proclivity for always keeping their cell phones on and feeling lost when they don’t have access to their cell phones. This is different from problematic cell phone behavior that develops because of preexisting factors and manifests itself in excessive cell phone use (Bianchi & Philips, 2006). The sense of dependence described here is more about spending higher than normal time with cell phone and having a high cell phone bill. This is the perception of being dependent on your cell phone and being reluctant to part from it.
To test the hypothesis that there are three dimensions that determine our attitudes on cell phones, a telephone survey was conducted in China, the world’s largest cell phone market (MII, 2008). 3,021 participants age 10 to 70 years answered various questions about their cell phone usage including their frequency of cell phone use, whether or not they sent and received SMS, listened to music, took pictures, played games on their cell phone, and downloaded wall papers and tones for their cell phone. The questionnaire that they were given covered the three hypothesized dimensions: sense of security, self-character extension, and dependence.
The results of the study confirmed the notion that there is a three dimensional structure that determines our attitudes towards cell phones. People who enjoy playing games, taking pictures, and downloading wallpapers or tones on their cell phones are more inclined to use cell phones as a way to show their character and identity (15). And people who send SMS with high frequency have high dependency on their cell phones. One obvious limitation of the study is that it was conducted in China and whether or not the results of the study can be generalized to other countries needs to be examined in future investigations.
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