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Photo Credit: Cai Tao
Navigate the vanity, opportunism, and inanity of WeChat properly

Politely exchanging business cards or phone numbers is out when it comes to meeting new people in China. Nowadays, no matter whether you are in a conference or a club, it’s common to hear this question, “Do I scan you or do you want to scan me?” (我扫你还是你扫我?) ( Wǒ sǎo nǐ háishi nǐ sǎo wǒ? ), as the newly acquainted half-heartedly tap on their phones without making direct eye contact. They are, of course, talking about adding each other on WeChat by scanning the QR code generated by the app. Over 500 million people stay active on WeChat per month according to recent reports, making it the biggest social media platform in China. More than half of the users reported opening the app over 10 times a day while nearly one quarter of its users are heavy “addicts” who open it over 30 times. It’s a wonder they have any time left for real life. Given that a large portion of social activities now take place online, it may prove handy to know some social media lingo, especially on WeChat.

Once you have made it into someone’s “circle of friends” or 朋友圈 ( péngyǒuquān ), it’s time to start getting to know them by browsing their “moments”, a personal blog with posts of their daily routines, hobbies, and opinions. But be careful, you may not always like what you find out. The most common actions on WeChat are 晒 ( shài ) and 秀 ( xiù ), both meaning “to show”. Most of the time, people just share their daily experiences and stuff they find interesting.

Post: This newly opened restaurant serves authentic Sichuan food. I recommend you have a taste.

Zhè jiā xīn kāi de cānguǎn chuāncài hěn zhèngzōng, tuījiàn dàjiā qù cháng yi cháng.

这家新开的餐馆川菜很正宗,推荐大家去尝一尝。

Where is it? I’d like to try it!

Zài náli? Wǒ yě xiǎng qù!

在哪里?我也想去!

Food posts, or 晒美食 ( shài měishí ), are guaranteed to appear on your WeChat daily. When you do it, just be careful not to post a picture of delicious cuisine late at night, or you will be jokingly accused of 报复社会 ( bàofù shèhuì ), or “taking revenge on society”. Originally used to describe random crimes against members of society, here the logic dictates: your alluring food photos will undoubtedly lead viewers to unhealthy late night snacks. People who took the hit will be filled with guilt after they have filled their stomach. Emotional distress and actual fat on their hips, your post is definitely a weapon of massive destruction. Of course, all you need to do is sit back and enjoy all the crying face emojis in your comment section.

Your friend will also call your act 拉仇恨 ( lā chóuhèn ), literally “attracting hatred”. Originally a gamers’ invention to describe the act of attracting monsters in certain video games, this term is now widely used as playful banter among friends, meaning “I hate you” or “I’m so jealous”.

Post: Showing delicious lamb barbecue late at night to take revenge on society!

Shēnyè shài kǎo yángròuchuànr, bàofù shèhuì le!

深夜晒烤羊肉串儿,报复社会了!

Comment: You are so good at attracting hatred.

Nǐ lā de yì shǒu hǎo chóuhèn.

你拉得一手好仇恨。

Of course, it also applies to sharing anything that would make your friends jealous, but of course, you are not really doing it for that purpose…right?

Post: The Beijing summer is so hot; it’s as high as 40 degrees, while my city is only 25 degrees.

Běijīng de xiàtiān tài rè le, jùrán yǒu sìshí dù, wǒ zhèli cái èrshíwǔ dù.

北京的夏天太热了,居然有四十度,我这里才二十五度。

Comment: You are plainly and simply attracting hatred!

Nǐ zhè shì chìluǒluǒ de lā chóuhěn !

你这是赤裸裸地拉仇恨!

No, I’m luring you for a visit.

Búshì, wǒ shì gōuyǐn nǐ lái wánr.

不是,我是勾引你来玩儿。

It’s natural for people from different walks of life to show different things, but young parents are notorious for sharing unwanted photos of their babies, or 晒宝宝 ( sh3i b2obao ). We understand the wonder a new life brings to the world, but a picture every day, showing these little angels drooling or babbling, may be too much for us. Nevertheless, you don’t want to be completely anti-social or appear cold-hearted. Here are few things you can say:

Post: 41 days since the baby’s birth, mum and dad love you!

Háizi chūshēng dì-sìshíyī tiān jìniàn, bàmā ài nǐ!

孩子出生第41天纪念,爸妈爱你!

Comment 1: So cute! She looks just like her mother.

Zhēn kěài! Tā zhǎng de zhēn xiàng māma.

真可爱!她长得真像妈妈。

Comment 2: [Babies grow] so fast, [I didn’t realize] she was already this big.

Zhēn kuài a, háizi dōu zhǎng zhème dà le.

真快啊,孩子都长这么大了。

Compliment the child; say they are beautiful and that they have a remarkable resemblance to their parents, even if all babies look like chubby lizards to you. Ask about the details of their development and the proud parents will soon be over the moon. None of this may seem interesting to you, but you have to do it—it’s called being social.

What is more annoying than excessive baby photos? Excessive photos of adults. You must have at least one 自拍狂人 (zìpāi kuángrén), or selfie fanatic, in your circle of friends, whose face you “admire” daily. They always manage to squeeze in a selfie or two under any topic. They also love coupling their vanity with “inspirational words”, and this will definitely get on your nerves. Their first post in the morning is a hopeful smiling face and this:

Walking toward the bright and beautiful sunshine, I carry the biggest dream. Today is a brand new day. Good morning, everyone!

Yíngzhe míngmèi de yángguāng, huáichuāi zhe zuì yáoyuǎn de mèngxiǎng, jīntiān yòu shì xīn de yì tiān. Dàjiā, zǎoshang hǎo!

迎着明媚的阳光,怀揣着最遥远的梦想,今天又是新的一天。大家,早上好!

As you cast an eye out on the smog covered city, you may wonder which bothers you more: the cliche, or the fact they can be so cheerful. Subsequently, choose not to tap 赞 (zàn), or “like”. Others may choose to post a not-so-aggressive message paired with a photo of them enjoying tea or arranging flowers at home. They will most likely say:

I just hope the years will be quiet and tranquil and my life will be smooth and peaceful.

Wǒ zhǐ yuàn suìyuè jìng hǎo, xiànshì ānwěn.

我只愿岁月静好,现世安稳。

Oh how unique! And yet, somehow it happens to be one of the most frequently used phrases on social media, because everybody needs to show that they are different—more sensitive and romantic than the masses.

This is a quote from the marriage statement of writer Hu Lancheng and famed novelist Eileen Chang in 1944. It was a promise that Hu made to Chang that their life together would be happy and peaceful. But people tend to gloss over the fact that Hu cheated on Chang with two other women during their short marriage and was eventually chased out of the country because he collaborated with the Japanese; Chang, on the other hand, lived in seclusion near the end of her life in an apartment in Los Angeles, and her body wasn’t discovered for days.

If these words didn’t work out for the originators, repeating it probably won’t help you.

If 晒 is the act of sharing, then 秀 definitely has the connotation of “showing off”, an attempt to raise social status through the display of wealth. But the message must be subtle. If you are a 土豪 (tǔháo, vulgar rich) who prefers the crude and simple way—a screen shot of your bank account balance or your king-sized bed covered in pink RMB—no words needed. In order to be subtle, you have to master the art of backdoor bragging, which is basically bragging disguised as complaint, also known as the humblebrag.

My husband bought a newly-released LV bag in France for me, but the color is so ugly.

Lǎogōng cóng Fǎguó gěi wǒ mǎi le ge zuìxīnkuǎn de LV, dàn yánsè yě tài chǒu le ba.

老公从法国给我买了个最新款的LV,但颜色也太丑了吧。

It took me over 10 hours of flying to reach this jade ocean and blue sky, I am so exhausted.

Zuòle shí jǐ ge xiǎoshí de fēijī cái láidào zhè piàn bìhǎi lántiān, zhēnde hǎo lèi.

坐了十几个小时的飞机才来到这片碧海蓝天,真的好累。

Be prepared to lose friends if you really post messages like this. Then again, there’s no shortage of blind followers in any circle, and you may just become the Queen Bee in your group, with people calling you 女神 (nǚshén, goddess) or 男神 (nánshén, god, prince charming). Whether they are really your friends is open for debate, but my guess is that you will be too busy admiring your own reflection in the mirror (selfies on WeChat in this case) to care about other people.

Believe it or not, there is a worse crime when making posts on WeChat, and it’s called 代购 (dàigòu), or “commission purchase”. To these people, WeChat is a place for marketing and their “friendship” only extends as far as your pocket.

Going to Hong Kong tomorrow, anyone want me to buy anything?

Míngtiān qù Xiānggǎng, yǒu yào dài mǎi dōngxī de qīn ma?

明天去香港,有要代买东西的亲吗?

Twenty percent off on the newly arrived facial masks from America; come to grab them quickly!

Měiguó xīn dào de miànmó dǎ bā zhé le, dàjiā kuài lái qiǎng a!

美国新到的面膜打八折了,大家快来抢啊!

There’s nothing surprising about it though; in China, people are encouraged to think of social connections as resources that must be turned into a profit. If you accidentally add these people, go to the privacy settings of your WeChat and add them to the black list, an act called 拉黑 (lāhēi).

Well, there you have it, a look through the WeChat world of sharing, bragging, and profiteering. Travel smart, and try to avoid annoying your friends.

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author Liu Jue

Liu Jue is the co-managing editor of The World of Chinese Magazine. She has a Master of Arts in Communication from Middle Tennessee State University, and a Bachelor of Arts from Minzu University. She has been working for TWOC since 2012. She is interested in covering history, traditional culture, and Chinese language.