Short-video applications like YouTube and TikTok have become increasingly popular among college students. While these platforms offer entertainment and social interaction, a study in Computers in Human Behavior highlighted that excessive use could lead to behavioral addiction symptoms, such as emotional depression, reduced learning and work efficiency, and poor time management.
To specifically understand the psychological triggers behind the overuse of short-video apps, researchers used two main approaches: the Interaction of Person-Affect-Cognition-Execution (I-PACE) model, which investigates digital behaviors and their underlying causes, and the uses and gratifications theory, which looks into why individuals turn to media and suggests that people consume media to fulfill specific needs.
The study further explored how needs like knowledge acquisition, social identity, and entertainment drive behaviors such as social interaction and compensatory expectation. Additionally, the researchers examined the role of inhibitory control – the capacity for self-discipline – in moderating the relationship between these variables and app overuse.
In the study, 197 college students recruited from China and United States participated by completing online self-administered surveys. The findings revealed that while the entertainment needs of Chinese students did not notably impact their social interaction on short-video apps, American students’ need for entertainment negatively affected their social interaction on these platforms.
A potential reason is that the American culture, characterized by its individualistic and extroverted nature, places a heightened emphasis on personal satisfaction and entertainment. This might cause American students to favor personal content consumption over engaging socially on these platforms.
Furthermore, the research underscored the importance of compensatory expectation, which refers to the idea that users turn to short-video apps to make up for unfulfilled needs or deficits in their real-life situations. This plays a crucial role in their dependence or excessive use of these platforms.
Finally, the shift from being a regular user to becoming an excessive user is consistent and does not depend on the individual’s self-control abilities, and this was observed across both Chinese and American college students.
However, the role that inhibitory control played in other aspects of app usage differed between the Chinese and American individuals: Chinese students with higher inhibitory control had increased regular app use due to social interactions, while American students – with stronger inhibitory control – used apps more when compensating for real-life deficiencies.
Although the study relies on self-reported data, which may introduce bias, and further research is needed to explore additional variables that can influence excessive use, it provides valuable insights into the factors driving the overuse of short-video apps among college students.
“Our findings suggest that users’ social interaction and compensatory expectation to fulfill their various needs may foster excessive use tendencies,” the researchers wrote.
Therefore, young adults… can take steps to (1) carry out outdoor activities (2) read more text than video (3) enhance their self-regulation abilities. When the corresponding manifestations of dependent use appear, attention should be paid to increase vigilance, stopping it in time, shifting attention to prevent the further development of excessive use behavior.”
The study, “A cross-national study on the excessive use of short-video applications among college students“, was authored by Ning Zhang, Bidyut Hazarika, Kuanchin Chen, and Yinan Shi.