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Study Finds Users, Not Notifications, Initiate 89% of Smartphone Interactions

According to a new study published in the journal Computers In Human Behavior, smartphone users initiate 89% of the interactions, with only 11% initiated by a notification. “This is at odds with previous academic literature and news reports which commonly claim that smartphone notifications are ruining your life, ruining productivity, and so on,” reports PsychNewsDaily. From the report: “The perceived disruptiveness of smartphones is not mainly driven by external notifications,” the study’s authors write, “but by an urge of the user to interact with their phone that seems to occur in an almost automatic manner, just as a smoker would light a cigarette.” […] The researchers explain that many users felt compelled to check their phones even when they had switched off notifications. “Seeing this has made me realize that I don’t even remember picking it up,” one of the subjects said in a subsequent interview with the study’s authors. The study also found that the average duration of a smartphone interaction was 64 seconds. About 50% of the interactions were 23 seconds or less.

The most common activity users engaged in when using their phones was checking WhatsApp, which accounted for 22% of interactions. […] The second most common interaction, at 17% of the total, was a “lock screen check,” which means briefly unlocking the phone to check for new notifications. In third place was interacting with Instagram (16%). Facebook and Facebook messenger together accounted for 13% of the interactions, e-mail for 6%, web browsing 4%, music 3%, Snapchat 2%, and photos 2%. Phone calls — these devices are phones, after all — only comprised about 1% of the interactions.

The participants generally considered e-mail notifications the most important. Likewise, they largely considered group chats a “source of distress,” and found most group-chat messages unimportant. Smartphone interactions were longer when users were alone versus with others, and were also longer at home versus at work. Likewise, these interactions were shorter when participants received notifications, compared to when they “self-disrupt.” This indicates that smartphone use is more purposeful when users receive notifications, and more “distraction-seeking” when they check their phones themselves. The researchers also found that the scrolling features on apps like Instagram and Facebook led to the longest interactions.

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