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Exploring the mechanism of social media addiction: an empirical study from WeChat users

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Purpose

The problematic use of social media progressively worsens among a large proportion of users. However, the theory-driven investigation into social media addiction behavior remains far from adequate. Among the countable information system studies on the dark side of social media, the focus lies on users' subjective feelings and perceived value. The technical features of the social media platform have been ignored. Accordingly, this study explores the formation of social media addiction considering the perspectives of users and social media per se on the basis of extended motivational framework and attachment theory.

Design/methodology/approach

This study investigates the formation of social media addiction with particular focus on WeChat. A field survey with 505 subjects of WeChat users was conducted to investigate the research model.

Findings

Results demonstrate that social media addiction is determined by individuals' emotional and functional attachment to the platform. These attachments are in turn influenced by motivational (perceived enjoyment and social interaction) and technical (informational support, system quality and personalization) factors.

Originality/value

First, this study explains the underlying mechanism of how users develop social media addiction. Second, it highlights the importance of users' motivations and emotional dependence at this point. It also focuses on the technical system of the platform that plays a key role in the formation of addictive usage behavior. Third, it extends attachment theory to the context of social media addictive behavior.
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Keywords: Addiction; Attachment theory; Social media; Socio-technical framework; WeChat

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Management, Hefei University of Technology, Hefei, China 2: School of Management, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, China

Publication date: April 10, 2020

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