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How to stay in touch with friends without Facebook and Orkut?

by on August 4, 2010

I have never really thought about social media in China until I received the news that I might be moving there next year.  My husband’s work might take us there. Therefore, I started researching social media in China so I would know what to expect once I get there.

I must say that I was disappointed with my findings and a little worried about how I will be able to keep in touch with all my family and friends from all over the world.

I’m originally from Brazil and the predominant social networking site there is Orkut (owned by Google). Orkut is very similar to Facebook. Three years ago when I moved to the United States I did not have any problem by talking to my friends in Brazil via Orkut because this platform is not censored here in the US. The only thing I had to do was to create a Facebook account because the new American friends and friends from other countries I meet don`t use Orkut.

Anyway, now I use two different social networks and they are the most effective way to keep me in touch with my friends and family. I believe that it would be a big challenge to maintain these relationships without these social networks sites.

But now I will have to face a challenge because in China internet censorship does exist. The Chinese government for many years has been monitoring communications in China and this includes instant messages, emails, mobile phone calls, social networking sites and much more. Because of this, many websites that are used in western countries are blocked in China. Most important for me: the social networking sites I use in the United States and Brazil I won`t be able to use in China.

The Chinese are into social networking but the platforms used in China are not used in westerns countries (though they are accessible), except perhaps by Chinese living abroad. For example:

Even though they have many platforms available I still have a problem to solve because at least 98% of the people in my social network have never heard about the sites I just mentioned.  So how can I solve my problem?

My idea was to create a blog;  this way I could share my experiences with my friends and family. I checked and I probably can open an account on BlogBus a “Shanghai-based blogging service provider”. But I`m still not happy with the idea because blogs don`t offer the same features I can find when using Facebook or Orkut.

A blog is more about me, the way I see things, my personal opinion; it is not about what is happening with my friends. I can`t poke a friend or see their latest photos. Blog has a far different interactivity than Facebook and Orkut. On Facebook, I can see the communications that are going on with my friends in real time.

I feel that I don`t have many options unless I`m lucky and my friends will all start using the Chinese social networks. Since this does not seem likely, I might need to get into the dark site of the internet. According to a friend of mine from China I can try to install some special software to avoid government blocking. They call it “jumping over the wall” and I might be able to use my Facebook account this way.

I also found some online chatter about Facebook is making a deal with the Chinese government to come to China in which case would make my life easier.

It`s incredible how we get attached to our social media tools in a way that controls our life. We are so dependent on them that once we see that we can`t have those platforms we (I) begin to panic.  I know if I have to stop using Orkut and Facebook I will be very unhappy, at least for a (long) while!


From → China

  1. fx4x permalink

    good post

    i will keep visit to your blog

  2. CarolinaB permalink

    Great job Amina! I like that you included your personal experience!

  3. Thanks.
    I`m going a little crazy with this idea of living in China. =)

  4. First of all, this is indeed a tough challenge and one I imagine many expats struggle with as they consider a move to any country. China’s rules around Internet use may certainly make it tougher and your idea to potentially start a blog could be a good one to help to manage this and at least share your story of being in a new country with your family and friends. I would be interested to read something like that too. What this post was missing, for me, was more of how you could relate this personal experience to something broader or more applicable to the Chinese market and social media in a professional sense. Are they communities of expats who are finding other ways to network with one another? You mention that Facebook could be working out a deal to be in China – did you learn more about this process and what may or may not be permissible if that does happen? The personal story aspect of this post was great to share your voice, but without relating it more to the professional context and what this personal story meant in a wider context, a piece was missing. (4)

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