China’s Virtual Reality

From Fast Company:
Liu Neng, a sociologist at Peking University, says that [the new] generation has come to see social networks as “a place of escape. Online, they find a sense of security and a sense of social worthiness. It’s a place where they can derive their own youth culture. These are things they cannot get from their real lives, where they feel pressure.”

From Resonance China Social Media:

Graph shows Chinese internet usage. Notice how most usages go up and down as Chinese users try to connect on the web. Social media usage however continues to rise steadily.

From My Eyes:
I spent three consecutive summers in China, before, during and after the Olympics. The difference between internet use during these periods was striking.

In China people often use “Wang Ba”s, meaning “internet bar/cafe” where rows and rows of gamers, predominantly male, and females, predominantly watching dramas, can sit for as little as 1 kuai an hour. (In Beijing, 20 cents approx, less in rural, more in Shanghai.)

Before the Olympics in 2007, a very obvious foreigner, I could go to a WangBa and easily access the web. I used Facebook regularly to communicate my adventures, post photos and friend other study abroad students.

During the summer of the Olympics the crackdown began. Facebook was down, unless you had an international phone. Wangbas began requiring photo ID from patrons, which meant a passport from me. They took a photo and kept a computer file on all my internet activity. To avoid different site blocks, I would go to foreign cafes in the student district with free wifi.

2009, the summer after the Olympics: The expats scared out of the city by the constant police interrogations on the street and new apartment rules began to pour back in. The Wangba rules had not changed. This is what greeted me on my return:

I didn’t go back last summer; I was in New York at Ketchum. I don’t know if I’ll go back this summer, but I feel a pull back. I wonder if the rules put into play in the name of the Olympics hold. Even here I see China’s internet empires rising: Baidu, the search engine I once turned down an internship to, Sina and Pengyou, blowing up as real competition, Renren, once Facebook’s “copycat”, now a much more dynamic social network, Cherrypicks, one of the top agency winners in digital media and the mobile network superceding our own in size, use and marketing.

Not only has the giant risen, but he’s Wired In.


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