Digital detox in China? Virtually impossible thanks to WeChat
By Sandy Chu

It’s the app that does everything but is the popularity of WeChat making it impractical for the Chinese to switch off? WGSN Shanghai Editor Sandy Chu reports…

Jul 23, 2015
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Digital detoxes have been on the rise globally over the last few years. However, in China as the country’s business culture shifts from one built on guanxi – “connections” – to the concept of renmai – “social network” – this is virtually impossible.

This is, to a large extent due to the popularity of the country’s home-grown closed network social media app, WeChat. Functioning as a type of operating system for smartphones, the platform can be used as a rolodex, mobile wallet, file transfer, e-commerce portal, media feed and an informal LinkedIn-style resource. It is also being hailed as China’s new media outlet thanks to the growing popularity of public micro-blog accounts. But as anti-social tech use is resulting in real life companions being relegated to third wheels, there is a growing awareness and concern that mobiles are now omnipresent – and it’s starting to feel intrusive.

In a visual that says it all, Ogilvy Beijing recently finished a photo series entitled “The More You Connect, The Less You Connect”.

Despite individuals becoming more aware of the detrimental cost of digital overloading, there are no signs users will decrease their online engagement in China. As the cost of labour and living continues to rapidly rise amid a slowing economy, many users remain loyally locked in with professional FOMO (fear of missing out) as the government focuses on the internet as the country’s next economic driver . How we will actually enable ourselves to switch off at this point remains a question, but it is one that requires an answer sooner rather than later.

BEYOND WECHAT: Discover how consumers use social media in China and what it means to be a “netizen” with our in-depth report.

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