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Year : 2017  |  Volume : 22  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 110-115

Patterns, Attitudes, and Dependence toward WhatsApp among College Students

Department of Psychiatry, Central Referral Hospital, Sikkim Manipal Institute of Medical Sciences, Gangtok, Sikkim, India

Correspondence Address:
Harshavardhan Sampath
Department of Psychiatry, Central Referral Hospital, Sikkim Manipal Institute of Medical Sciences, 5th Mile, Tadong, Gangtok - 737 102, Sikkim
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jmhhb.jmhhb_42_17

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Background: WhatsApp (WA), a free cross-platform smartphone application has revolutionized social communication over the virtual world. It enables information sharing, both personal and professional, individually and across social groups. Despite these positive changes, there have been concerns about excessive WA use, especially among college students, resulting in the neglect of important social and academic commitments. However, there is lack of quality research on WA use in this vulnerable population. Aims: The aim of this study is to understand the patterns and attitudes toward WA use and measure the level of dependence among college students. Materials and Methods: In a sample of 150 undergraduate medical college students who provided informed consent, comprehensive questionnaires were administered to assess the patterns, attitudes, and dependence toward WA use. Results: WA was the most common social media platform used (70%) which eclipsed the time spend on other apps (Facebook, Twitter, etc). While half of the students spent 1–2 h/day, a significant minority (10.67%) spent almost 6–7 h/day on WA. Nearly 12% (n = 18) of students qualified for WA dependence. There were no significant differences in patterns of WA use between students with or without WA dependence. Students with WA dependence had significantly lesser negative attitudes toward its use compared to the rest. Scores on all dimensions of WA addiction, namely, salience, mood modification, tolerance, withdrawal, conflict, and relapse were significantly higher in students with WA dependence. Conclusion: WA dependence is an emerging behavioral addiction among college students. With no specific pattern of use to distinguish dependent users, it is difficult to recognize this problem. Changing the attitudes towards WA use by creating awareness about it's addictive potential, monitoring and restricting the use of mobile phones especially during class hours, encouraging face to face interactions with friends and family can help reduce the progression of this behavioral problem. It is essential for clinicians to equip themselves to deal with technological addictions. Research on the the management of WA dependence using biopsychosocial principles suited to the Indian context are needed.

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