Mobile Addiction: When Content Is An Itch

According to mobile analytics company Flurry, I may need to attend a 12-step program soon for what the company calls “mobile addiction.” Well, I am not sure Flurry itself wants me to go mobile sober, but their metrics suggest I am among that slice of users who open apps over 60 times a day.

Well, okay -- it is part of my job. But still. I would tap relentlessly even if I weren’t being paid for it. Oh, crap -- I just said that out loud.

Well, too late.  

Flurry estimates there are 176 million users worldwide who are well above the average 10 app-a-day user. We addicts as a group grew 123% between March 2013 and March 2014. The so-called “super-users” (16 to 60 app uses daily) grew 55%, while the average users (under 16 times) grew only 23%. The addicts represent a fraction of the overall market, but are opening apps at 6X the average rate.

Interestingly, the mobile addiction indexes 8% more among women than men. Flurry says that the incremental difference actually adds up to a sizable 15 million more women in the addict category than men. Moms are the big tappers, it turns out, as well as those accessing the parenting and education categories. On the male side it is the auto enthusiast in the lead, although parenting topics drive the male addict. More curious still is that the young adult segment actually over-indexes 49% -- more than teens (24%), which means, I guess, they aren’t counting SMS as an app. But it is the 35- to-54-year-old set that is the big surprise, indexing 40% higher than average.

Flurry believes that the surge of usage in the parenting segment helps explain the high incidence of addict-like behavior among this group. And along with that is the good insight they make about targeting services into the wearables market. There are some content categories outside of the obvious fitness and health apps that pique relentless usage. As mobile tech becomes more like a watch, then it will be interesting to see what content becomes ticks in much the same way checking the time is more like an itch than a necessity. It raises some interesting ideas about information as a personal habit.

Another important question to ask of Flurry’s metric might be: is there any content category that we legitimately need to check in on scores of times a day? At what point is information not serving a need for the content so much as a need to be assured by it in some deeper way? It may not be that you are finding out anything new so much as maintaining the feeling of being on top of things -- not missing a change or feeling connected. As the content does become that intimate, then our uses of it become even more personal, psychological, and passionate.

"Crazy Face" photo from Shutterstock.

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