Shocks and Dissatisfaction: The Main Reasons for Discontinuing Platform Use


Many companies generate their income based on user numbers via subscriptions (e.g., Spotify, Netflix) or advertising (e.g., Facebook, Twitter).

The loss of users or subscribers negatively impacts the profitability of these companies, either directly via reduced subscription revenue or indirectly via decreased advertising revenue. To sustain the competitiveness of companies that rely on these revenues, it is essential to prevent people from discontinuing their use.

Extant research explains the discontinuation of digital technologies based on user perceptions. Specifically, perceived dissatisfaction is used as the core explanation for this behavior.

This project, funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), expands on extant explanatory approaches by illustrating that disruptive events, colloquially referred to as "shocks", can lead users to discontinue using digital technology irrespective of their satisfaction with it. For instance, the birth of a child may lead users to have less time for Netflix and cancel their subscriptions, even though they may be satisfied with the service.

This project aims to develop a theoretical understanding of why individuals discontinue the use of digital technologies. The focus is mainly on the relevance of shocks (e.g., the birth of a child, job change, exposure of private data on the internet) and how they lead individuals to disrupt their routines and discontinue digital technology.


Our findings demonstrate that there are different types of shocks. These can be directly related to the use of digital technologies (e.g., a data scandal involving the exposure of private data, encountering widespread misinformation) or occur in the users' broader environment (e.g., relocating to a new city, a breakup). We categorized these types into a taxonomy to characterize shocks.

The taxonomy reveals possibilities for future research on shocks: Do positively perceived shocks (e.g., the birth of a child) and negatively perceived shocks (e.g., a breakup) differ in their impact on user behavior? Do the effects of shocks diminish after a certain period? Which personality types are more or less susceptible to shocks? When do users perceive a specific event as a shock?

Selected publications

  • Meier, M., Maier, C., Thatcher, J.B., and Weitzel, T. (2022)
    Shocks and IS User Behavior: A Taxonomy and Future Research Directions
    Internet Research (33:3), p. 853-889,