Digital technologies such as smartphones and social media occupy a large and growing share of leisure time. While these technologies provide obvious benefits, some argue that they can be addictive and harmful. We lay out a model of digital addiction and estimate its parameters using a randomised experiment involving more than 2000 smartphone users. The experiment offered some participants temporary incentives to reduce smartphone social media use and offered others a tool that they could use to set limits on their own use. Both interventions led to substantial and persistent reductions in use. The pattern of responses supports the hypothesis that these technologies have addictive properties. Looking at the results through the lens of our addiction model implies that the non-rational dimensions of digital addiction increase social media use by approximately 40 minutes per day.
Matthew Gentzkow is the Landau Professor of Technology and the Economy at Stanford University. He studies applied microeconomics with a focus on media industries. He received the 2014 John Bates Clark Medal, given by the American Economic Association to the American economist under the age of forty who has made the most significant contribution to economic thought and knowledge. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Econometric Society, a senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, and a former co-editor of American Economic Journal: Applied Economics. Other awards include the 2016 Calvó-Armengol International Prize, the Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship, grants from the National Science Foundation, National Institutes for Health, and Sloan Foundation, and a Faculty Excellence Award for teaching. He studied at Harvard University where he earned a bachelor's degree in 1997, a master's degree in 2002, and a PhD in 2004.
This lecture is organised by the "Technological Change and Society" Interdisciplinary Research Cluster.
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