WeChat: How to fit in modern Chinese social life
What is a WeChat?
WeChat is what Facebook Messenger wishes it could be. It’s the cooler older sibling that you aspire to become during school. The one your parents love, and ask why you’re not like them. WeChat is a text, video call, and phone call platform first. It’s also essential for any Westerner who’s traveling to Beijing, be it long term or short term to download this app.
It was one of the main things that popped up on every internet list about preparing to move to China. And boy, they were right. With Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram being banned here (a simple VPN could solve that problem), WeChat is your gateway onto social media. As a Matter of fact it’s one of the only main forms of social media here besides the classic Weibo.
Before coming here, I told everyone that I talk to on a daily basis to download WeChat if they wished to hear from me back home. It’s come in handy with its surprisingly clear phone calls, and video chats. All you need is a stable Wi-Fi connection from both parties and you’re solid.
The genesis of WeChat
WeChat is the brainchild of one innovative Chinese businessman named Zhang Xiaolong. It’s still relatively new to the mobile app scene, only being four years old. Tencent invested in this app, as well as the favorite Kakao app in Korea. The creation of WeChat was after the fall of QQ in China. QQ originated on PCs, think of it as AOL, some know the reign that had and how its reign quickly fell after the rise of smartphones and texting. The same happened with QQ which tried to transition into the smartphones, but alas WeChat was the better contender. QQ still exists but in the shadow of WeChat and other mobile apps.
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WeChat’s trump card
How does a simple texting, phone app have more than 760 million users worldwide with 549 million active users a month? Because it’s not that simple, it’s got layers, like an onion. Yeah the convenient calling features are what a lot of expats love, but it has a wallet feature. And it has a feature that’s like Uber. And you can order food from it!
It’s called app within an app. WeChat holds all of these extensions in the official accounts which companies, celebrities, and other media sources can create. Through these accounts, they can share promotions, and allow users to access other tools. If you follow certain restaurants, you can order food, and pay through you WeChat wallet. Follow sites like TimeOut Beijing; they’ll keep you updated with offers, maybe free tickets to an upcoming event.
These are things that apps out west don’t have quite yet. Facebook is constantly evolving, keeping an eye out to gems like WeChat and WhatsApp. Their messenger has the wallet feature, but I don’t know if there’re as many people using it like they do with the WeChat wallet. Twitter just decided to extend their word count limit on tweets, while Instagram is trying to change how users connect with each other. Guess what; you can do all of this through WeChat.
WeChat’s definitely dominated with being able to incorporate the key features of other platforms into one. Go to the Moments tab and you can see short videos or pictures your friends have uploaded. Some just send out quick updates or tweets. It’s a whole social lifestyle.
Scan my QR code
Just get used to this phrase. This is the way you add friends, without having to search for them by typing in their username or phone number. It’s pretty fun too. Each person’s QR code is in a different picture. Mine is on a piece of bread, which some wish they had. Once you scan the code, it opens up the others profile and sends a request.
I’ve been asked for my QR code from people I’ve just met. Just a quick exchange of greetings and then “Do you have WeChat?” is asked. It’s surely building up to be a legendary app for people of all ages. It’s popular among everyone here in China that has a smartphone. And it’s necessary to have if you want any kind of social life.
People send you their locations to meet up or quickly call you through the app for a quick chat. Friends also pay each other through here, with the beep boop of the wallet app, you’ve paid them back for covering lunch. I wish there was something this neat and assessable back home in the U.S.
Long live WeChat
If you’re moving to China or just visiting China, make sure you download this app. It’ll make your experience so much better, and you’ll be in the know of cool things happening around the city. WeChat is something to watch out for, and a must-have for anyone who’s social media savvy.