Visiting Shanghai this time felt like stepping into a parallel universe where things were similar but different. In a world where Apple, Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Google or Youtube doesn’t exist, people connect through HuaWei, Weibo, WeChat, Baidu and Youku. In the West, where English is the predominant language of the Internet, the predominant language of the internet is Chinese (obviously). In both cases, there is a proliferation of cute cat videos. It is a world where Kim Kardashian doesn’t seem to exist whilst Hugh Jackman continues to be as popular there as he is everywhere (yay!).
Disconnection in a connected society
Even though I consider myself a fairly connected and active user of social media, I was almost invisible in China. My current follower base may be humble, but it is big enough for me to feel that I have a voice and am connected. In China, where people were sharing news and photos on their social networks, I was left feeling rather isolated. With one default Weibo follower (Expecting another one soon – I am waiting for a follow back from my cousin) and a handful of friends on WeChat, I am pretty much invisible in the Chinese online community. I also have limited things to share, as the content I consume is blocked in China.
A selfie of a selfie
You know in the past when it was considered polite to walk around someone taking a photo or wait for them to finish? Not possible. If I had to wait for someone to finish taking a selfie, I would never get anywhere! There were people even taking selfies of selfies. The dedication to the selfie has also resulted in the selfie stick, now sold everywhere in Shanghai. These selfie sticks are also like nothing I have ever seen. Multi-tiered and adjustable, these are the full works.
Another favourite memory is also one of a rainy visit to Yu Yuan market. The rain was so bad that whole crowds had gathered under covered roofs to wait for the downpour to stop before crossing over to the next covered roof. That didn’t stop the dedicated selfie takers from walking into the middle of the downpour to pose for their perfect selfie though!
Solar panels, electric cars? Old news
I was walking around the neighbourhood of ZhongShan, a wonderful part of Shanghai that is characterised by the famous ZhongShan Park which is filled with the old and the young keeping active with dance and Tai Chi. I walked past three electric cars. One was being charged, another drove past me and the third one was parked. On a separate day, I was walking in People’s Square when I also came across Solar Panels fitted on the roofs of random convenience shops. The realisation that China is using solar to power an ice-cream fridge, whilst we (in Australia) focus our efforts on trying to sell coal, is just a little bit scary. Candlesticks anybody?
QR Codes everywhere
Want to add a friend, search for a link or get information on anything? All you need is a mobile phone and a QR code. Every advertisement seems to have one that allows users to access the URL without having to type it in. It can also be used for website log in, payments, virtual stores (remember those?) and adding friends on WeChat. Whilst QR codes never really seemed take off in Australia, it has in China – big time.