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Mobile Phone Use as Part of Young People’s Consumption Styles

Mobile Phone Use as Part of Young People’s Consumption Styles

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Mobile Phone Use as Part of Young
People’s Consumption Styles
Mobile Phone Use as Part of Young
People’s Consumption Styles

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Published by: Khawaja Naveed Haider on Dec 29, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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ABSTRACT. The paper reports on an empirical study of the connection betweenconsumption patterns and mobile phone use. The data stem from a survey of Finnishyoung people aged 16–20. The results indicate that young people’s relationship tothe mobile phone is consistent with their general consumption styles. An “addictive”use of the phone was related to “trendy” and “impulsive” consumption styles and preva-lent among females. Technology enthusiasm and trend-consciousness was linked toimpulsive consumption and “hard” values and prevalent among males. A frugal mobilephone use was not related to gender but to environmentalism and thrifty consump-tion in general. The traditional gender division in mobile phone use styles that couldbe observed is interesting in the light of conjectures that genders are becoming morealike in their use of new technology. Technology enthusiasm, usually regarded as a“typically male” thing, was also linked to “female” consumption styles. This may reflectyoung men’s changing relationship to consumption.YOUNG PEOPLE AS CONSUMERS IN THE INFORMATION SOCIETY
The consumption and lifestyles of young people have always been lesscharacterized by the “traditional” collection of material objects thanis the case for older age groups (e.g., Wilska, 2002a). Hedonism,visibility, and open-mindedness have also been regarded as typicalof the consumption of young people. The consumption styles of youngpeople represent everything that theorists argue to be typical of today’s“postmodern” lifestyles and consumption. Apart from everyday lifehaving become “aestheticized” (Featherstone, 1991), consumption isregarded as much more than purchases of products and services.Instead, consumption is to a greater degree seen as a means of self-expression, individual identity-formation, creativity, or even art (e.g.,du Gay, 1996; Gabriel & Lang, 1996; Giddens, 1991). Unpredictabilityand the blurring of traditional styles are typical of 
new technology. Moreover, the portrait of a post-modern consumer also includes eternal youthfulness or at least thepursuit of it. More and more, the lifestyles and consumption patternsof young people determine the consumption trends of the
 Journal of Consumer Policy
441–463, 2003.
Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
Terhi-Anna WilskaMobile Phone Use as Part of YoungPeople’s Consumption Styles
. Similarly, the time spent at work or studying is expectedto contain more and more play, entertainment, and adventures (du Gay,1996; Langman, 1992; Mäenpää, 2003).The digital media shows and the cyber-worlds of the new tech-nology respond perfectly to the need for play and entertainment.However, these media spectacles have been criticized for their allegedadverse effects on young people, such as isolation and false con-sciousness caused by the virtual world. Also the use of the mobilephone has caused public worry. The combination of private telecom-munication and the hanging around in public places has become a new,appealing way of keeping up social networks for young people(Gillard, Wale, & Bow, 1996, p. 149; Mäenpää, 2001, p. 122). Thishas reduced the possibility for parents to control their communication.Due to the youngsters’ personal mobile phones, parents do notnecessarily know the friends of their children any more. Also theuse of other ICT products is more “private” than before. Young peopleoften use their computers in their own rooms, in which they also watchtheir own TVs and videos (Coogan & Kangas, 2001; Suoranta &Lehtimäki, 2003; Wilska, 2002a).However, there are also more optimistic views about the effectsof the information technology on children (e.g., Rushkoff, 1996;Tapscott, 1998; Turkle, 1996). According to Tapscott (pp. 7–9), thenew “Net-Generation” matures earlier and is more knowledgeable thanany of the previous generations. The differences between genders inthe use of the new technology are often reported to decrease, sincewomen and girls spend as much time on ICT as men and boys do.Furthermore, women use more Internet in their work (Nurmela, 2001;Nurmela, Heinonen, Ollila, & Virtanen, 2000). However, there is alot of divergent evidence on this. According to several studies, thetraditional gender roles still persist and many more women/girls thanmen/boys are afraid of ICT (e.g., Kangas, 2002; Oksman, 1999;Suoninen, 2003; Turkle, 1988; Wilska, 2002a).As a result of growing influence of the “Net-Generation,” theimpact of youth and young people has increased not only in the
of consumption styles but also as in the
of them. According to some theories, when moving from childhood toadulthood, most rites of passage are for sale in the marketplace. Onecan even argue that the actual significance of youth as a stage in lifelies in the ability to act as an independent consumer on the market(Griffin, 1997; Miles, 2000, p. 106). Today young people reach this442
Terhi-Anna Wilska
stage earlier than before, and the discovery of one’s “own style”becomes important at a very early age. Thus, the pressures for keepingup with the “legitimate” styles have never been as strong as they arenow. According to Klein (1999) and Quart (2003), the logos andbrands of products have become ever more important for young con-sumers. However, Finland is still behind the United States and WesternEurope in terms of the development of consumerism and the consumersociety (Wilska, 1999, p. 194). As consumers, Finnish young peopleclearly are different from their parents as consumers, but consumptionand brands do not yet fill their lives to the same extent as is the casein countries with more established consumer cultures, such as GreatBritain or the United States.According to the Finnish Youth Barometer, to be “trendy” wasthe most important purchase criterion for only two per cent of youngrespondents aged 18–30. The most important criteria were quality,price, and sustainability. Moreover, 80 per cent of the respondentsthought that when choosing products, they were unaffected by theopinions of their peers (Youth Barometer, 2001, publ. 2002). A recentcommercial study also indicates that young people do not have veryaffectionate relationships to brands (Norrena, 2002). However, it isobvious that Finnish young people have many different consump-tion styles.
The empirical study to be reported here explores the connectionbetween young people’s mobile phone use and their consumptionstyles. In Finland, mobile communication, as well as other informa-tion and communication technologies (ICT), is undoubtedly a veryimportant part of the everyday life of young people. ICT has greatlyaffected the lives of all Finnish people during the past decade.According to Manuel Castells, Finland is the first “real” informationsociety in the world (Castells, 2000, p. 72). This argument may beexaggerated, yet the shift from a country struggling with deepeconomic depression in the early 1990s, to a country pioneering ininformation and communication technology, has been very rapidindeed.Finland is probably not the leading country in the world for all
Mobile Phone Use of Young People

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