Flawless devices, faulty users: Finnish young adults’ representations of smartphone usage

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School of Business | Master's thesis
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Finnish smartphone users lead the global statistics of data usage. This makes them an ideal consumer group to research technology consumption practices. It has been estimated that consumers use their smartphones as much as one third of the time that they are awake. The device has become essential in everyday life as consumers have it always with them and it is always on. Smartphone usage has been researched for example in terms of technology adaptation and desired functionalities, but the research on consumers’ emotions towards technology is limited. The focus of this study is especially in the contradictions and paradoxes that Finnish young adults express in their narratives of theirsmartphones and smartphone usage. Past research on technology paradoxes, information technology development, postmodern consumption culture and social constructivism on technology serve as theoretical background for the study. This study has been done by using qualitative research methods. The data consists of ten interviews and projective techniques including sentence compilations and autodriving. Young Finnish adults who live in big cities and have high education were selected for the interviews, as statistically they are heavy users of smartphones, thus making them interesting subject of technology paradox research. The findings of this study outline the major mismatch in consumers’ narratives: they perceive their smartphones as useful and capable devices but consider their own smartphone consumption as incapable and counterproductive, which results into feelings of distress, anxiety and guilt. This misusage appears in multiple forms, interpreted in four themes of guilt: using smartphones to procrastinate, damaging meaningful social relations with smartphone usage, misusing or overdosing the massive amount of content and not meeting the expectations to be available. The narrative of flawless device and faulty user has implications both for consumer research and for management. The main contribution of this study is to widen the focus of academic legacy from the paradoxes of technology to the paradoxes of technology consumption. The study portrays the shift from consumers’ perceptions of their smartphones as devices to perceptions of themselves as smartphone users. This offers a fruitful basis for further research on technology consumption, which is an inseparable part of postmodern life.
Thesis advisor
Bhatnagar, Kushagra
Hietanen, Joel
consumer narratives, smartphones, martphone users, technology paradox, technology consumption, social constructivism on technology
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