China Less and Less Enamored of Social Media, Study Finds

China’s Internet users are growing disenchanted with social media.

A new poll from research firm Kantar showed only 64.7% of Chinese web users felt social media’s impact is positive, down from 76.8% a year earlier.

The study’s authors pointed to several causes, including loss of novelty, web addiction and lower-quality content on social media platforms.

The sliding poll numbers come as China’s government has gradually tightened control over social media platforms. In January, the country’s Internet regulator shut down dozens of public accounts on the popular WeChat instant messaging platform for posting inappropriate content. That followed moves last year to restrict access to foreign services like Line, Flickr and Instagram and to require holders of public WeChat accounts to register with their real names.

On Wednesday, Beijing announced new rules requiring real-name registration for virtually every social media platform.

But tighter management wasn’t the only reason social media was declining in popularity.

“Social media has penetrated into the lives of Chinese people and they now realize they are spending too much time on it,” said Sophie Shen, who led the Kantar poll, in a statement. “At the same time, they are receiving more low-quality and duplicate content.”

The No. 1 worry brought about by social media use, according to the survey, was reduced time reading books. Reduced privacy, sleep deprivation and worsening eye-sight were other concerns.

Overuse of the Internet is a common topic of conversation in China. The world’s second-largest economy has had a steady stream of dismal, and sometimes gory, accounts of Internet addiction, such as the recent one of a teen who evidently chopped off his hand (in Chinese) in an effort to stay off the web.

In addition to the decreased enthusiasm for social media, the Kantar China study found that the user base of social media is broadening, with people of different age groups, lower education and smaller cities now joining. The average age of the Chinese social media user was 30.4 in 2014, up from 28.8 the year before.

Microblog usage fell 11 percent last year, after a 9 percent decline the previous year, according to a report released Tuesday by state-run China Internet Network Information Center. The fall came despite continued growth in the country’s population of Internet users, which hit 649 million in 2014.

The study was conducted through online polling of more than 13,000 Chinese web users, along with text-mining of posts on the leading microblogging site Weibo and top chat app WeChat.


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