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China Sex & Gender

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 editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Marketing & Advertising

Hard Measures for Durex in China after “Vulgar” Ads

One Durex sex toy ad gave off the wrong vibrations to Chinese regulators.

Manya Koetse

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As if it wasn’t already bad enough that fewer people are having sex during COVID19 lockdowns, leading to a decline in condom sales, condoms & sex toys brand Durex is now also (again) punished for the “vulgar” contents of its advertisements in China.

News of Durex facing penalties in China became top trending on Thursday, with one Weibo hashtag page about the matter receiving over 1,2 billion views.

Durex has over three million fans on its official Weibo account (@杜蕾斯官方微博), which is known for its creative and sometimes bold posts, including spicy word jokes. Durex opened its official Weibo account in 2010.

A post by Durex published on Wednesday about the release of Apple’s super speedy new 5G iPhone, for example, just said: “5G is very fast, but you can take it slow,” adding: “Some things just can’t be quick.” The post received over 900,000 likes.

Other ads have also received much praise from Chinese netizens. One ad’s slogan just shows a condom package, saying “Becoming a father or [image of condom] – it’s all a sign of taking responsibility.”

According to various Chinese news outlets, Durex has been penalized with a 810,000 yuan ($120,400) fine for failing to adhere to China’s official advertisement guidelines, although it is not entirely clear to us at this point which fine was given for which advertisement, since the company received multiple fines for different ads over the past few years.

One fine was given to Durex Manufacturer RB & Manon Business (Shanghai) for content that was posted on e-commerce site Tmall, Global Times reports.

According to the state media outlet, “the ad used erotic words to describe in detail multiple ways to use a Durex vibrator.” The fine was already given out in July of this year, but did not make headlines until now.

(Image for reference only, not the ad in question).

In another 2019 case, the condom brand did a joint social media campaign cooperation with Chinese milk tea brand HeyTea, using the tagline “Tonight, not a drop left,” suggesting a connection between HeyTea’s creamy topping and semen.

According to China’s Advertisement Examination System (广告审查制度), there are quite some no-goes when it comes to advertising in China. Among many other things, ads are not allowed to be deceptive in any way, they cannot use superlatives, nor display any obscene, scary, violent or superstitious content.

Chinese regulators are serious about these rules. In 2015, P&G’s Crest was fined $963,000 for “false advertising”, at it promised that Crest would make your teeth whiter in “just one day.”

However, advertisement censorship can be a grey area. Any ads that “disturb public order” or “violate good customs,” for example, are also not allowed. For companies, it is not always clear when they are actually crossing a line.

On Weibo, there are also contrasting opinions on this matter. Many people, however, support Durex and enjoy their exciting ads and slogans. With the case dominating the top trending charts and discussions on social media the entire day, the latest penalty may very well be one of Durex’s most successful marketing campaigns in China thus far.

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.

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China Fashion & Beauty

The ‘Fake Rich’ of Shanghai: Peeking Inside a Wannabe Socialite WeChat Group

A Shanghai fake ‘rich girl WeChat group’ has become the talk of the day after a Chinese blogger went undercover in their bizarre social media circle.

Manya Koetse

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A Shanghai Lady Socialite WeChat Group has become top trending on Chinese social media after a blogger exposed its workings. From splitting the costs for an afternoon high tea at The Ritz to sharing a Gucci pantyhose, these girls are taking the phrase ‘fake it ’til you make it’ a bit too literally.

 
By Manya Koetse, with contributions from Miranda Barnes
 

How to become part of Shanghai’s super-rich social circles? Some people think joining a WeChat group is the way to go.

A Shanghai ‘Female Socialite WeChat Group’ has gone mega trending on Chinese social media today after a blogger went undercover in the group for two weeks, giving netizens a peek inside a world that’s all about faking it. The topic reached over 1.2 billion views on Weibo on Monday.

The Chinese blogger Lizhonger (李中二) invested 500 yuan ($75) and pretended to be a girl in order to become a member of the WeChat group after one of his readers tipped him off about its existence.

The group profiles itself as the ‘Shanghai Female Socialite’ group that is all about “Young / Fashion / Money”. The profile poster states that the WeChat group is a place to share information about (Hermes, Dior, etc) luxury products, to have afternoon tea together, to get to know social media influencers and to share updates on wealthy and eligible bachelors.

Besides a 500 yuan membership fee, new members are required to provide proof of having at least 100,000 yuan ($15,000) in their savings account.

Faking such proof is probably not too difficult; most of the active members of the ‘Shanghai Ladies’ WeChat group appear to be anything but nouveau riche – nor old rich, for that matter.

Lizhonger discovered that instead of being an actual WeChat group for rich girls to talk about their latest Louis Vuitton bags, the group is in fact all about finding ways to appear rich. Part of it is sharing resources and splitting the costs of experiences where these luxury-loving girls can post photos of themselves.

“It turned out to be a high-end version of Pinduoduo,” Lizhonger writes. Pinduoduo, sometimes referred to as ‘the Groupon of China,’ is an interactive group-buying shopping platform that offers quality goods at extremely low prices.

As exposed by Lizhonger, the members of the WeChat group would do things such as sharing the cost for an afternoon high tea at the Ritz-Carlton. The high tea, which is meant for two people, was split among six people, with each person paying 85 yuan ($12.5). The girls then took turns to attend the high tea, with the first girls promising not to touch any of the food so the other girls could still take pictures of it once it was their turn to show up at the Ritz.

Screenshots of the WeChat group, where members agree to share a 2-person high tea at the Ritz with 6 people.

Likewise, the booking costs for a 3000 yuan hotel room at the Ritz was shared among 15 members of the WeChat group, with each person paying 200 yuan ($30).

The price for a room at the glamorous and expensive Bvlgari Hotel Shanghai was shared with no less than 40 people, each person paying 125 yuan ($18) just to go up, take a pic, and share their location on social media.

The madness does not stop there. Lizhonger also exposed how the group members would rent one designer bag with four persons, passing them on to each other to wear on a date with a prospective boyfriend.

Or how about renting a white Ferrari for one day with 60 people? For 100 yuan ($15) per person, each lady got to take a picture to post on social media.

The girls even went as far as sharing the costs for a second-hand Gucci pantyhose, while also discussing how guys driving a BMW or Benz are just not good enough.

One WeChat group can hold a maximum of 500 people. Groups that are popular, such as the one described here, are sometimes split up in multiple groups (A, B, and C) so that more than 500 people can participate.

Since Lizhonger posted his article on WeChat on Sunday, it’s become all the talk on Chinese social media. One post about the topic on Weibo reached over 1,4 million likes.

Although many people laugh about the matter, there are also many who criticize these Shanghai women for pretending to be rich and chasing after money in order to increase their social status in order to find a wealthy husband.

“They are faking their appearances, but actually they are just faking themselves,” some commented.

Others are not surprised that these kinds of groups are popular. “Did you think this was rare? There are so many of these groups!”

Although this group goes to extremes, the fake socialite life is not just a Shanghai thing. Since some years ago, it was reported that influencers in Russia were booking grounded jets for photoshoots. More recently, some influencers in the US were exposed for renting a photo studio made to look like a private plane for their Instagram photos.

By Manya Koetse, with contributions from Miranda Barnes

Featured image by Yuan Zhe Ma

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.

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