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China disillusioned by social media

News, 09 February 2015

BEIJING: More and more Chinese people are using social media but an increasing proportion are also questioning its effect on their lives according to new research.

For its China Social Media Impact Report, research firm Kantar polled 13,341 online users as well as carrying out face-to-face interviews and text-mining of posts on Weibo and WeChat. It found that most people had a positive view of social media's impact: 64.7% compared to 12.2% who thought it had a negative impact, with the remaining 23.1% being neutral.

But these figures marked a significant change from a similar survey last year, as the positive proportion had fallen 12.1 percentage points, while the negative proportion had almost doubled (from 6.7%).

"As social media becomes less new, it is no longer the cool thing to do and loses part of its charm in certain groups", said Sophie Shen, general manager of CTR Media & Consumption Behaviour, which led the online polling survey.

"More profoundly, social media has penetrated into the lives of Chinese people and they now realise they are spending too much time on it," she added.

Nor is it simply the amount of time it takes up that is leading to creeping disillusionment.

"They are [also] receiving more low-quality and duplicate content," Shen explained. "This is why the proportion of `zero interaction' social users increased by 7 percentage points to 46%."

Among the concerns expressed about excessive social media usage were reduced time reading books, reduced privacy, sleep deprivation and worsening eye-sight.

Kantar also drew on continuous survey research – based on face-to-face interviews with 53,112 urban residents – to track the changing profile of social media users.

Overall reach among urban residents had increased from 28.6% to 34.0%. And there has been a distinct shift towards a younger user demographic.

People born in the 1990s have surpassed the 1980s generation to become the largest age group using social media, forming 37.7% of the total. The 1980s cohort has also been squeezed at the other end as older age groups access social media; its share has dropped from 44.8% to 30.8%.

Entertainment remains the largest category discussed on social media (25.4%), followed by news events 19.6%, health and beauty (15.7%), work and study (14.3%), travel (12%) and others (13%).

Data sourced from Kantar; additional content by Warc staff