Thursday, October 30, 2014

How WeChat

Here's one of the ways 微信 WeChat, China's FB/twitter, works. You invite your Chinese teacher over for dinner and she takes some pictures of your bean chili, as well as of some of the photos you show her on your laptap from last year's Tibet trip. When she gets home she posts them with some flattering words about your prowess as cook and photographer, so you post a half-self-mocking emoticon. She adds a coda: she had no idea an American professor might share her love of snow, highlands and ethnic music; her emoticon weeps with joy. A flurry of emoticons might follow, as well as assorted humorous gifs which express more and less obvious emotions. I've been availing myself of these frequently, since they require less typing (and vocabulary!), but recently had misgivings. Why assume that the gestures suggest the same thing in China as they seem to to me? I asked a friend with whom I'd had a particularly vigorous exchange of silly gifs and he said the whole point was that they were vague. As a social media newbie I don't get that part yet.

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