The Impact of WeChat Use Intensity and Addiction on Academic Performance

By Li, Yan; Sallam, Marwan H. et al. | Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal, January 2019 | Go to article overview

The Impact of WeChat Use Intensity and Addiction on Academic Performance


Li, Yan, Sallam, Marwan H., Ye, Yinghua, Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal


WeChat has been the most popular form of social media in China in recent years (Gan, 2017). Since its launch in China by Tencent in 2011, researchers have examined the social, physical, and mental effects WeChat has on its users. For example, Wen, Geng, and Ye (2016) found that WeChat users' intrinsic use motivation significantly predicted their subjective well-being. Zhang, Li, Wu, and Li, (2017) found that WeChat users' continuance intention was influenced by such factors as network externalities, social interaction ties, and perceived value. However, little research has been done regarding WeChat use intensity and addiction or its impact on student users' academic performance.

Given China's rapid development in recent decades, increasing numbers of international students are choosing to pursue their postsecondary education in China (Lu & Zhao, 2017). After coming to China, most of these international students would use WeChat. This led us to ask the following questions: What are these international students' WeChat use behaviors? Do they have a problem with WeChat addiction? And will their WeChat use behavior actively or passively impact their academic performance? To explore possible answers to these questions, we selected Yemeni international students in China as participants and examined their WeChat use behaviors, as well as the effect of WeChat use intensity and addiction on their academic performance.

Literature Review

Yemeni International Students in China

The first group of Yemeni students came to China in the 1960s. According to data provided by the Chinese Ministry of Education to the Embassy of Yemen in Beijing in 2016, the number of Yemeni scholarship holders who had registered at Chinese universities in 2016 had reached 800. In addition, there are increasing numbers of self-financing Yemeni students in China. The counselor estimated that the approximate number of Yemeni students in China was between 2,000 and 2,500 at the end of 2016 (A. Alnoah, personal communication, February 18, 2017).

WeChat Use Intensity

According to the 2017 Tencent WeChat User Data Report, the number of WeChat users has increased rapidly, from 1.58 million at the end of 2012 to 902 million at the end of the third quarter of 2017 (Tencent, 2017). Among WeChat's functions, the three used most frequently are Moments, Send and Receive Messages, and Public Account.

Previous researchers have found mixed results regarding the effect of using WeChat and other online activity on users' lives. For example, Xu et al. (2016, p. 9) found that WeChat users had better sleep quality than did non-WeChat users. One of their explanations was that "WeChat could be used to relieve stressful situations and feelings of depression or anxiety." In contrast, Demirci, Akgonul, and Akpinar (2015) found that greater smartphone use was associated with depression and anxiety, which, in turn, resulted in sleep problems. There are several possible reasons for individuals continuing to use WeChat. For example, Lien, Cao, and Zhou (2017) found that WeChat's environment and outcome service quality is positively related to users' use intention, with stickiness (users' willingness to stick to WeChat) playing a mediating effect in this relationship.

WeChat Addiction

Scholars from multiple countries have found that the occurrence of mobile phone addiction in adolescents is above 30% (Liu et al., 2017). Importantly, it has been found that mobile phone addiction negatively impacts both the physical and mental health of users and can result in other problems such as academic failing, interpersonal problems, depression, anxiety, and even suicidal ideation (Liu et al., 2017). As for WeChat addiction specifically, Zhu (2015) found that the phenomenon does exist among Chinese undergraduate users.

Vujic (2017) found that improper use of social networking sites negatively affected users' academic performance and was one of the major sources of distraction among students. …

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