"In my life I have always dreamt about my true love. He will treat me very well, protect me from all the uncertainty, displacement, sadness, and loneliness. However, I always know that that person will never turn up." This is typical of postings for Lily, a 19-year-old factory girl, who posts on her Qzone. This melancholic and beautiful line accompanied a collection of photos of gorgeous weddings, beautiful women, and European style palaces which Lily collected online.
Lily started to use QQ when she left her village and began working in factories. During breaks and after work, the first thing she did was to check her Qzone which she is logged into 24/7. Lily's Qzone is a stylish space with a lot of photos and pop music she has collected. Online, she talks as if she is a princess who is waiting for true love. She never talks in this manner offline.
Lily's family of five live in two small single rooms. The toilet and kitchen are both shared by another two rural migrant families. In summer, the family wash themselves in a shared toilet which is without a shower. The floor is frequently covered in used toilet paper and dirty water and there are stains on the wall. One day in summer after work, Lily was 'working with' QQ in her room. Without air conditioning the temperature is over 38 degrees. After a while, she looked up to see the anthropologist, Xin Yuan, sitting there, sweating like a pig.
"Life outside the mobile phone is unbearable, hey?" she smiled.
So where do these people now live? Yes, they move all the way from their original villages to live geographically closer to a modern world, however, it seems that it is only online that they actually arrive there, at a place where they can at least achieve their aspirations in their imagination.