Expressing yourself with images
Yong Huang, a 23-year-old factory worker, seemed very shy and nervous, saying little. Huang comes from a poor village in China, left school at 14, and since then has worked outside of his village. But this appearance of unease with communication changes when one becomes Huang’s QQ friend. On QQ Huang sends funny images which he collects online.
“You know…I think you will look down upon me if you talk with me. I am not well educated (mei wenhua) you know…girls won’t like me if they only talk with me face-to-face.”
This is clearly in line with his QQ profile postings. Huang shares a lot images with motivational or sentimental wording edited by others, and when sharing these, the only word he uses in comments is ‘wo' (I). He explained that he felt these postings simply express everything he wants to say. Just putting that word, ‘me’, indicates ‘that’s exactly what I think’. Sharing a selection of other people’s visual posts that seem to express his feelings empowers Huang to express himself.
Most migrant workers dropped out of school before finishing junior middle school, and are therefore not well educated. For these rural migrant populations in the factory towns, visuals on social media are an essential form of expression.