Why we post


People feel social media is now somewhere they live, as well as a means for communication.

Social media is not just a technology for communicating or entertainment. It’s now a place where we spend our time. For some people, such as those living away from their family, it can become the main place they live. 


Here, as in many of our fieldsites, there are examples of young people who seem to spend most of their time on social media, but see this as an extension of, rather than an alternative to, their offline social life.


Social media has transformed relationships for transnational families, with family members able to recreate the sense of proximity of living together in the same home.


Living together through social media


Most people here have a very active and sufficient social life and make limited use of social media, but here is an individual who compensates for a more limited local world by using a larger international social media.

Industrial China

The migration of people from offline to online was in some ways more effective than that from the rural areas to the factory towns in bringing people into the modern China they aspire towards.


Life outside the smartphone is unbearable

Rural China

Here also, even where social media doesn’t necessarily impinge that much on offline life, it is a way to imagine and experiment with other ways of living.


This is rarely the case for adults, but they commonly remark that their children seem to live on another planet when absorbed by social media.


Premarital romantic relationships exist mainly online, to the extent that a couple might feel awkward when they are actually together.