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Why WeChat is not a "real" social media app

Social media allows mass communications, but WeChat does not.  When people post something on a social media website, such as Facebook, people can interact with their friends' friends even thought they may not connect with their friends' friends on Facebook. They can also search and participate in trending conversations with the aids of hashtags. Can people do that on WeChat?

People can only interact with the friends with direct connections on WeChat. Let's say two people, Tom and Amy are "friends" on WeChat. I happen to know both of them in person but I am only connected with Tom on WeChat. When Tom posts an update, Amy and I can both respond to Tom's update, but I will not be able to see the conversation between Amy and Tom. Likewise, Amy will not able to see my conversation with Tom because Amy and I are not connected. The hashtags do not work on WeChat either.

Therefore, I don't think WeChat is a real social media tool. And because most social media tools are blocked in Mainland China, people living there really don't have a voice on social media.

The fact that people don't have access to social media in Mainland China does not surprise me, however. Things have always been well controlled for decades. What shocks me the most is people's choice when they are presented with options.

I met a nice lady last week, who told me she originally came from Shanghai and had been working at Cal Poly Pomona for over 10 years. We briefly talked about the firewall issues in Mainland China. Her response was: "I only want one-to-one conversation like what WeChat offers. I don't want Facebook or any other social media tools. They are just too much! Why bother?" When she said "I,"  her attitude and body language suggested that she was referring to the people living in China. All of a sudden, she became very offensive.

I was shocked. It is fine for people not to use the real social media tools. And yes, they may choose to have one-to-one conversation via SMS, WeChat, e-mails, or phone calls, but the question is: Do we want people to have the option of carrying on one-to-many or many-to-many conversations besides one-to-one conversation?

I certainly respected her choice, and I stopped the conversation. Yet, her comments keep me wonder what Mainland Chinese really want. Unfortunately, they cannot answer my question as they are not allowed on Blogger.com.  

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