A few days ago I walked into my grandmother’s house for dinner. I heard her talking loudly. Pause. Talk. Pause. It sounded like such a disjointed conversation. Then I realised she was using WeChat. I didn’t think much of it. I thought: most of her relatives live in China where social media there is quite restricted, so it’s just another WhatsApp.
But little green message logo is everywhere; on the street, in the shops and restaurants and even in some bathrooms! Why is this logo everywhere I go?! I decided to conduct a quick investigation and here are some interesting things I discovered.
The Superman of social media apps
WeChat is not just any old next social media platform. It merges the functions of Whatsapp, Facebook, Skype, Instagram and OK Cupid. There is no need to switch between all five other apps, when I’ve found one super app that can do it all. Who doesn’t love a good five-in-one multi-purpose app?
At its core, WeChat is a messaging service. Just like any other messaging application, you have your standard one-on-one and group chat, audio message, video conferencing for groups speech-to-text translation, emojis, stickers etc. But an additional feature I found quite nifty is the translation function. With the international audience that is has attracted you can also translate text in any language by simply holding the message and selecting ‘Translate’. This makes communicating with friends from diverse cultures easier!
It’s not just all fun and games with WeChat. WeChat also has e-commerce site similar to that of Alibaba or Messenger’s marketplace, so you can sell, sell, sell!
Social media is all about documenting the special experiences in life. WeChat’s adaptation of this is ‘Moments’. Upon sign-up to WeChat, your profile is populated and customisable. Moments allows you to upload, tag, like, comment and share your videos and pictures just like Facebook and Instagram with your friends or friends of friends. It is limited in its capacity to share as the app does not allow you to share ‘publicly’ (meaning those that are not your friends), unless you’ve created a public page.
This is a unique aspect of the app. With your permission, if you enter your bank details into the app, not only can you transfer funds to your friends, but you can also pay for goods by simply scanning a QR code with the camera. There is no need to pull out your wallet and find your card. The exchange of goods and services is now as simple as taking a picture.
They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but now it can be worth however much you want it to be.
Now this is where WeChat takes it up ANOTHER level. You can book medical appointments, report incidents, organise transportation and even pay your bills. This new feature sees social media being much more integrated into the daily lives of its users, beyond just being used for leisure purposes. Having a WeChat profile is more than just connecting and communicating with your friends. It seems to make your life easier with almost everything, as simple as a click of a button.
The more information that you are willing to enter into the app, the ‘easier’ it is supposed to make your life. However with entrusting such information in an app also comes issues of privacy.
But how is knowing all this about WeChat relevant? Could WeChat make your life easier? Could you even take the opportunity to embrace the social networking app to engage your diverse classes? We know that students are always on social media, so why not meet them where they are?
Piqued your interest and want to learn more? Professor Wanning Sun has an extensive background with WeChat and can tell you more about its application and practices. Register now to join this session at the LX.lab.
Join the conversation using #UTSLXlab