CCST9076 Science, Technology and Big Data
Attention Magnet: The Psychological and Technological Aspects of Social Media Addiction

    [This is a certified Communication-intensive (CI) Course which meets all of the requirements endorsed by HKU’s Senate, including (i) the teaching assessment of written and oral communication ‘literacies’; and (ii) at least 40% of the course grade assigned to communication-rich assessment tasks.]

Course Description

Why do we feel compelled to constantly check social media? Does individual overuse of social media have an accumulative effect on our society? Can we make any productive changes to ourselves and social media platforms to mitigate our addiction to social media? This course will integrate interdisciplinary knowledge to uncover the driving forces behind social media addiction. The reasons causing people to get addicted to social media are not limited to personal characteristics and include the design and artificial intelligence used by the platforms themselves. In this course, we will introduce both the underlying technical mechanisms and psychological factors that cause behavioral addiction to social media. In addition, the accumulative effect of social media addiction on our personal and professional lives, as well as societies across the world, will be discussed. Through a variety of interactive and reflective learning activities, this course will drive a collective effort among students to develop solutions for minimizing social media addiction and maximizing the beneficial use of social media in both social and academic settings.

Course Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

  1. Understand why we can get addicted to social media from psychological and technical perspectives through written and oral means.
  2. Evaluate the applications of advanced computing techniques in social media.
  3. Analyze the impacts of social media in our lives and societies through oral discussions.
  4. Demonstrate the ability to apply interdisciplinary thinking to solve problems in social media context.
  5. Develop creative and feasible solutions for addressing social media addiction from different stakeholders’ perspectives.

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

Second semester (Wed)

Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures 24
Tutorials 8
Reading / Self-study 35
Assessment: Essay / Report writing 10
Assessment: Presentation (incl preparation) 5
Assessment: Debate/Role play (incl preparation) 45
Assessment: Online forum 5
Total: 132

Assessment: 100% coursework

Assessment Tasks Weighting
Reflective writing 30
Debates 20
Group project 50

Required Reading

  • Cheever, N. A., Moreno, M. A., & Rosen, L. D. (2018). When does internet and smartphone use become a problem? In M. Moreno, A. Radovic (Eds.), Technology and Adolescent Mental Health (pp. 121-131). Springer, Cham. From
  • Dhir, A., Yossatorn, Y., Kaur, P., & Chen, S. (2018). Online social media fatigue and psychological wellbeing—A study of compulsive use, fear of missing out, fatigue, anxiety and depression. International Journal of Information Management, 40, 141-152. From
  • Jacobsen, W. C., & Forste, R. (2011). The wired generation: Academic and social outcomes of electronic media use among university students. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking,14(5), 275-280. From
  • Sun, Y., & Zhang, Y. (2020). A review of theories and models applied in studies of social media addiction and implications for future research. Addictive Behaviors, 114, 106699. From

Required Viewing

  • Orlowski, F. (2020). The Social dilemma. [Netflix documentary-drama]
  • Pariser, E. (2011). Beware online “filter bubbles”. [TED talk]
  • Pariser, E. (2019). What obligations do social media platforms have to the greater good? [TED talk]

Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Dr S. Feng
Faculty of Education (Human Communication, Development, and Information Sciences)
Tel: 2219 4310
Teacher(s) Contact
Dr S. Feng
Faculty of Education (Human Communication, Development, and Information Sciences)
Tel: 2219 4310