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Faking Social Media 2.0: The Business of Buying “High-End Moments” for WeChat

Some are so eager to look picture perfect on their social media feed, that they go to extremes to create a fake online life.

Manya Koetse

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Your fake social life, delivered to your WeChat at 5 pm every day? Sounds very Nosedive, yet there are many who buy their social media contents in an attempt to appear cool, rich, and handsome.

This week, the story of a Wechat group for ‘fake rich’ women in Shanghai who pool together money to rent designer bags or share a two-person high tea at the Ritz with six people went super trending on Chinese social media.

While the ‘group buying-style’ WeChat lady socialite group is still trending on Weibo, more related stories are surfacing, with one story taking the idea of ‘faking it’ on social media to the next level. It even makes the Shanghai ‘fake rich’ girls seem authentic – at least these women actually went to the Ritz or Bylgari Hotel (although sharing the cost of one hotel room with 40 people).

On Tuesday, WeChat blog author Jiajiada (加加大) published a now-popular article about the phenomenon of “Buying WeChat Moments,” which finds its origins in the circles of young men taking PUA training (PUA stands for Pickup Artists, teaching men how to seduce women).

WeChat Moments (朋友圈) is a social feature for WeChat that allows users to share updates, photos, articles, and videos with their contacts, comparable to the Facebook timeline or Instagram feed.

In their mission to turn themselves into Mr. Perfect (高富帅), there is an online trend where male WeChat users purchase premade ‘high-end Moments’ photos to post on their timeline.

Via services offered through Taobao, people can become a paying member of a WeChat group where they get daily new photos to show off their (fake) fun, fancy, and interesting lives on social media. New photos are delivered to them every day at 5 pm.

In one of these WeChat groups joined by the author, there were a total of 138 members, mostly men. Although some people joined the group to use the daily photos for marketing purposes, the majority were members using the photos in their feed to appear more glamorous on social media, Jiajiada writes.

The daily photos provided to the members show the kind of life that would make anyone envious. Photos show a life that’s all about expensive wines, watches, and food, having Chanel shopping sprees (including photos of receipt for extra authenticity), going out to fancy KTV bars, having weekend trips out in the beautiful nature, and then some cuddle sessions with a pretty cat.

For example, one of the photos provided to members in the group joined by Jiajiada shows a setting where someone is having a cup of Phoenix Single Bush – one of the most complex and high-quality oolong teas. As verified by Jiajiada, that very same photo then indeed showed up in the several social media feeds of the group members, including the text.

Of course, the photos that are carefully selected by the WeChat group owner never show a face. They might show the legs of someone lying by the pool, or the hands of someone sipping on a glass of wine, but the photos are general enough to be used by anyone – making their friends believe these are their own authentic experiences.

 

“Does your male friend use this gay app? He’s not necessarily gay.”

 

But where does the WeChat group owner actually get all their photos of these expensive shopping sprees and exclusive wine tastings? Researching its source, author Jiajiada found out that many of the pictures are actually taken from the app Blued.

Blued is China’s most popular gay dating and lifestyle app. Since it was launched by Geng Le (see our article from 2015 about him here), it has grown into the biggest social platform for gays in China.

The app allows users to search for keywords, such as “luxury hotels” or “wine bar.” There are super topics on the app, such as “The hotels most loved by gays,” that show hundreds of photos posted by Blued users of fancy places and dinners.

Because the images posted on Blued do not have any watermarks, they are easy to steal and use for other purposes, including for people on WeChat to make money off.

“If your male friend has this guy app, he’s not necessarily gay,” Jiajiada writes, explaining that many straight men just steal content from gay guys to look better online.

Although the phenomenon of buying “high-end Moments” photos and copy-pasting them into your feed is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to appear richer and more interesting online, there are also other ways of buying “high-end Moments” on Chinese e-commerce site Taobao that require more effort.

There are agencies, for example, that offer set packages including photography, settings, and all props to make the ‘Mr. Perfect’ photos to fill up social media feeds – from posing in a race car, to pretending to lead a meeting, or reading the newspaper over breakfast in an expensive hotel room.

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On Weibo, there are not many people who sympathize with the men buying their WeChat social media content online, nor with the women who might actually fall for them. Some call the men “boring,” and the women who believe them “materialistic.” Others just laugh at how fake they all are.

“I hope these [fake] girls and boys can all find each other, so they don’t make other people unhappy,” one person writes.

But there are also those who seem inspired, writing: “Oh man, I might need to start using this gay app from now on!”

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2020 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    Olivier

    November 8, 2020 at 2:50 pm

    That s the best of the fake life of social media
    haha
    Great share

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China Insight

“Chinese Spy Balloon” Versus “Chinese Civilian Airship” – The Chinese Words That Matter in the Balloon Incident

On Chinese social media, the Chinese balloon is seen as a weather device that ended up measuring the temperature of China-US relations.

Manya Koetse

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A day after the U.S. military shot down a Chinese balloon off the Carolina coast, the ‘balloon incident’ is a hot topic on Chinese social media, as official media are publishing about the incident and social media users are discussing it.

At 8:17 in the morning on Feb. 5, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs published its response to the shooting down of the Chinese balloon on Weibo.

They expressed “strong discontent and protest” over the American use of force to attack the “civilian unmanned airship” (民用无人飞艇) after Chinese officials recurringly informed the U.S. side that the balloon – described as a weather device, – had accidentally entered the U.S. and did not pose any threat to the U.S. whatsoever (#外交部就美方宣称击落中国无人飞艇发表声明#).

On Chinese social media, as also described in our earlier article on the incident, the balloon has come to be referred to as the “Wandering Balloon” (流浪气球) in the context of the box-office hit The Wandering Earth II.

At the same time, China celebrated the Lantern Festival (元宵节) which marks the first full moon of the Chinese New Year. It is tradition to eat glutinous rice balls and enjoy lanterns floating in the sky.

The balloon incident set the Chinese social media meme machine in motion, in which the balloon, The Wandering Earth II, and the Lantern Festival all came together in various images that circulated on Weibo and beyond.

The balloon, featured in ‘The Wandering Balloon’ movie produced by ‘US Government’, wishes everyone a happy Lanern Festival.

Another meme titled “Wandering Balloon” drawing comparisons between the ballloon and rice balls traditionally eaten during Lantern Festival.

The Weibo hashtags used to discuss the incident were mainly initiated by Chinese (state) media outlets, such as “The U.S. Side Claims to Have Shot Down Chinese Unmanned Airship” (#美方宣称击落中国无人飞艇#); “America Uses Military Force to Attack Civilian Unmanned Airship” (#美方宣称击落中国无人飞艇#); “The U.S. Side’s Insistence on Using Force Is Clearly an Overreaction” (#美方执意动用武力明显反应过度#).

“Is it a balloon or an airship? The American official and media side all claim it is a spying balloon; the Chinese side claims it is an civilian unmanned airship,” one blogger wrote, showing the different media contexts in which the incident is being discussed and emphasizing the importance of the vocabulary used.

Words matter, and at a time when there is a lot of speculation about the incident, the seemingly humorous way in which Chinese netizens have responded to the international dispute also relates to the language that is being used to describe the event.

On Chinese social media, the majority of commenters see the balloon as a weather device that went wandering and, unexpectedly, ended up measuring the temperature of Sino-American relations – which turned out to be icy cold.

Some examples of the kind of phrasing that matters in the Chinese media context:

Civilian Unmanned Airship
民用无人飞艇 Mínyòng Wúrén Fēitǐng

The balloon in question is described as a “civilian unmanned airship” in Chinese official and state media texts. The word ‘civilian’ (民用) is included in the clarification about the balloon being a civilian meteorological balloon, and thus not serving any military purposes (民用 ‘civilian’ versus 军用 ‘military’).

Attack [on] Civilian Unmanned Airship
袭击民用无人飞艇 Xíjí Mínyòng Wúrén Fēitǐng

The U.S. military shooting down the Chinese balloon is also phrased as an “attack” (袭击) in many Chinese media reports as well as in the official Foreign Ministry post.

Completely by Accident
完全是意外 Wánquán Shì Yìwài

The expressions “completely by accident” (完全是意外), “unexpected circumstances” (意外情况), and “force majeure” (不可抗力) are used in official Chinese media texts describing the balloon incident to underline that the circumstances in which the device floated into American skies was not only unrelated to military / government purposes, but that it was also unintentional.

Stay tuned for more updates.

By Manya Koetse 

 

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China Insight

Press Conference on Chinese Student’s Death: Hu Xinyu Left Message on Voice Recorder

These are the most important details shared during the 2.2.23 press conference on the disappearance and death of Hu Xinyu.

Manya Koetse

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The disappearance and death of the Chinese 15-year-old Hu Xinyu has become one of the biggest topics on Chinese social media recently, with dozens of hashtags related to the story receiving millions – sometimes even billions – of views.

Hu Xinyu went missing from school on Oct. 14, 2022. The boy’s whereabouts were a mystery for 106 days, during which family, friends, police, and dedicated search teams searched for the student all across the Yanshan County region in Jiangxi Province and beyond.

On Jan 28., 2023, Hu’s remains were found by a local guard on the premises of a grain warehouse not far from the school. For a full timeline of Hu’s disappearance and the details surrounding his death, see our previous article here.

A voice recorder was also found near Hu’s remains, but the data on the small 4GB recorder initially seemed to be unretrievable, and it was sent back to the manufacturer for analysis.

On the morning of Feb. 2, 2023, local authorities and the dedicated task force organized a live-broadcasted press conference on the case and the latest findings.

The most important pieces of information provided in the press conference on February 2nd are as follows:

◼︎ Hu Xinyu’s death has been ruled a suicide by hanging. Hu used shoelaces, which were removed from the shoes found near Hu’s remains.

◼︎ As previously reported, Hu was found at a nearby grain warehouse. It has now been clarified that the area where Hu’s remains were found is a grain reserve depot area. The grain reserve depot area is prohibited to enter and is guarded 24/7. It is a very large plot of land that includes a zone (over 8000 square meters) with twenty buildings on it – including warehouses and living quarters, – and a forest area of approximately 9300 square meters. Although the area is encircled by a wall, some parts of the wall are lower due to uneven ground. Hu’s body was found in the wooded area, hanging from a tree near the wall, close to one of the spots where the wall height was significantly lower.

School area (top circle) and the grain reserve depot area (lower circle).

◼︎ The location where Hu’s remains were found is just 226 meters away from the Zhiyuan Middle School and it had been searched before, not only through the use of thermal drones, but also by search teams on four different occasions in October and November of 2022. Although all the buildings in the area were searched along with other parts of the zone, the specific wooded area where Hu was later found was not searched. There were also no clues that led search teams to believe Hu Xinyu had walked a specific route through dense vegetation surrounding the grain depot area.

People’s Daily released a 3D video visualising the situation in the area where Hu’s remains were found. Due to uneven ground / piled-up mud, the high wall is relatively easy to jump over from outside. Inside the wall (which is on the grain reserve depot grounds) there is a wooded area.

Hu Xinyu’s body was found hanging from a tree at the interior of the wall, in a place that was not clearly visible.

◼︎ The voice recorder plays a major role in this case. It was previously known that Hu Xinyu had purchased a voice recorder and that it could not be located after Hu Xinyu went missing. Although earlier reports stated that the data on the recorder could not be retrieved as the device had been exposed to sun, rain, moist, etc., it has now been announced that the audio files have been retrieved and that Hu Xinyu recorded two messages on Oct. 14, 2022, at 17:40 and 23:08, in which he expressed the will to commit suicide.

◼︎ The involved experts in this case have also concluded that through analysis and based on Hu’s own notes and other evidence, the 15-year-old boy was struggling with his mental health and emotional disorders related to loneliness, insecurity, and lack of communication. Hu also experienced additional stress when he was getting lower grades, and he suffered from insomnia, difficulty concentrating, abnormal eating patterns, and an overall sense of hopelessness.

During the press conference, reporters were allowed to ask questions related to the case. In response to a question related to the many rumors the Hu Xinyu case has attracted over the past months, one official declared that at least two persons have been arrested for fabricating videos and purposely spreading false rumors about the case.

After Thursday’s press conference, it has once again become clear just how big the social media attention is for this case. The hashtag “Content of Hu Xinyu Voice Recorder” (#胡鑫宇录音笔内容#) received over 390 million views on Weibo; the hashtag “Hu Xinyu Expressed Will to Commit Suicide on Voice Recorder” (#胡鑫宇录音笔中音频表达自杀意愿#) received over 640 million views; the hashtag “Hu Xinyu Died due to Self-Hanging” (#胡鑫宇系自缢死亡#) received over 950 million views.

Among the many responses, there are those who argue that schools should offer more channels to provide support to students dealing with mental health issues. Others hope that Hu Xinyu can now finally rest in peace.

 
For information and support on mental health and suicide, international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.
 

By Manya Koetse 

 

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Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2023 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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