China's view of social media dims: report

Updated: 2015-02-06 11:28

By Jack Freifelder in New York(China Daily USA)

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An increasing number of Chinese Internet users are growing weary of the negative impact of social media, according to a report from global market research firm Kantar.

Data from the new poll show that 64.7 percent of Chinese web users believe social media had an overall positive impact on society, down from 76.8 percent a year ago.

On the other side, 12.2 percent of respondents said social media's impact is negative, while 23.2 percent said it had a neutral impact.

China's view of social media dims: report

The report also shows that 68 percent of respondents agreed with the statement: "Social media makes my life better," a drop of 5.4 percentage points year over year.

Among the criticisms of social media use were reduced time reading books, loss of privacy, sleep deprivation and effects on eyesight, the report said.

The report's authors cited several causes for the drop in consumer confidence, including: loss of novelty, web addiction and lower-quality content on social media platforms.

Sophie Shen, general manager of CTR Media and Consumption Behaviour, who led the online portion of the Kantar poll, said Chinese attitudes toward social media have shifted in recent years.

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

Shen said the proportion of "zero interaction" social users increased by 7 percentage points to 46 percent.

"The higher penetration of social media has also increased people's concerns about their privacy," she said.

The second annual Kantar China Social Media Impact Report also found that user bases for social media are expanding to include new age groups.

The average age of the Chinese social media user was 30.4 years old in 2014, up from 28.8 the year before.

Research for the report was obtained through data mining, Weibo text mining and online polling. The sample covers 60 Chinese cities, an adult population of 66,000 respondents, 2 million Sina Weibo posts and 711 million WeChat article reads.

Kantar, the data investment management division of WPP plc, surveyed more than 13,000 people through a series of online polls, while the other 53,000 interviews were conducted in face to face in cities.

"China's social media landscape continues to develop at a rapid pace, and it is critical that marketers utilize systematic research to better understand how consumers ultimately use different platforms," said Sam Flemming, CEO and founder of CIC.

CIC, Kantar's social media research agency in China, followed hundreds of millions of WeChat users' clicks to better understand what topics are most widely read.

"While WeChat is clearly a dominant platform, China is not a 'winner takes all' environment," Flemming said.

In recent months, the Chinese government has tightened control over domestic social media platforms.

In January, China's Cyberspace Administration of China said it had closed 50 websites and social media accounts for violations ranging from pornography to "publishing political news without a permit," according to a Jan 20 report from Reuters.

In August 2014, the government placed restrictions on instant-messaging services for the first time. The rules require public-account users to register with their legal names.

On Wednesday, the central government in Beijing announced amendments to the real-name registration stipulations, increasing the number of parties covered by the legislation. The regulations will be enforced starting March 1.

In a statement posted on the CAC website, the government agency said the requirements would now extend to all users of blogs, microblogs, instant-messaging services, online discussion forums, news comment sections and related services.

Microblog usage fell 11 percent last year, after a 9 percent decline the previous year, according to areportreleased Tuesday by the State-run China Internet Network Information Center.

The fall came despite continued growth in China's Internet users, which hit 649 million in 2014, almost half the country's 1.3 billion population. iResearch forecasts the number will reach 790 million by the end of 2016.