WeChat Has Taken Over China: Please Stop Looking at Your Phone While I’m Talking to You

All photos from unknown but amazing artist: Taken from WeChat. If anyone knows who it is or the original link to their work, would be more than happy to add.

The mindlessness of mobile phone overuse is a well-worn topic these days. It is however, something that has in recent years, accelerated in China to the point of being a phenomenon worth worrying about. The other day I saw a guy with

‘Fuck your phone keep your head’

defiantly written on his t-shirt. “Yes!” I thought “At least there are still a few of around.” At that moment he stopped, pulled out his phone and proceeded to walk across the road without even looking until a car swerved out of the way and blasted its horn for an unbroken five seconds. As the car sped past he returned to his phone, neck bent still utterly absorbed.

In China the issue is a mixed bag really. There are countless positives to be had from it. The big one is WeChat. Everyone uses it without exception. Texts and calls are all free. I haven’t paid for a call or text in years. It also includes free video calls and sending of photos while people will often send brief audio messages instead of calling. You can even pay for things in any shop using WeChat and I mean without the use of a credit card. With WeChat you can send people money in a digital Chinese red envelope ‘hongbao’ and it immediately goes into their WeChat wallet. You can pay taxi drivers just by scanning their identity code and sending them a hongbao. Amazing hey?

The problem, as Mr Fuck Your Phone so clearly demonstrated, is that people are losing their ability to think. Wherever you go you’ll be surrounded by neck-bent people who will walk right into you if you don’t give way. On the subway everyone has the same ringtone or text tone which can be heard every thirty seconds or so. As a rough guestimate at least fifty percent of passengers on board will be on WeChat down the whole length of the carriage. The remaining phone users will be playing games while a few will be actually reading something worthwhile. Those with no phone may well be peering over the shoulder of their neighbour watching what they are doing. Phew!

Other noticeable areas of life are people on the treadmill at the gym holding their phone, in the hairdressers while they are getting their hair done, in the restaurant while waiting for the food to arrive and a large number who drive and use WeChat at the same time. In the park people line the benches using WeChat. Last night I saw a couple lovingly sharing a single phone while surfing their contacts. A friend of mine said that his girlfriend will immediately reach over to her phone moments after they’ve just finished having sex to surf her WeChat. People who go outside for a cigarette are no longer contented with only smoking. Yes these days it’s a ciggie in one hand and WeChat in the other. The other day I saw a couple walking down the road hand in hand all the while with heads bent down, their phones glued  their faces having long since thrown the idea of communication out of the fifteenth storey window.

Of course most non-users are the late-middle aged to elderly folk who developed brains long before cell phones were invented. These people demonstrate creativity that is worryingly in danger of disappearing in the next few years. They play board games in groups, play traditional instruments, do square dancing, exercise or sit together talking. How they manage to live without the latest app heaven only knows.

As a teacher I engage in a daily battle from keeping my students off of WeChat and focused on the task at hand. I even got a poster put up with the WeChat icon superimposed with a red road ‘prohibited’ circle and stripe across it. Despite this students still hide their phone under the desk or in the middle of an open book with the cover up so I can’t see it. I have to confiscate phones from perpetual offenders with one student even telling a colleague to fuck himself after a second reminder. Some students refuse to use a notebook, instead taking a photo of the whiteboard using their phone at the end of the class with a single snap, something I find highly infuriating.  

Oh yes and there is another interesting off-shoot to all this; the ‘Phone Holders’. While a pocket or bag is clearly available these people will sit there phone in hand while not actually using it. What’s all that about then? Are they just really popular? Are they waiting on an important life changing call that they dare not miss? Hmmm, I don’t think so. Maybe it’s an attempt to appear to be popular, wanted, the centre-pin of a vast overlapping set of social circles that require their utmost attention, ‘Wow look. They’re always on the phone. They must have such a dynamic lifestyle!’

Phone Holders are everywhere; sat on the subway or walking down the road solo or in groups. For sure it’s a combination of various elements. These are
1:Phone addiction
2: Showing off your identity.
3: Maintaining a feeling that you fit in with society.
4: Lastly, some deep insecurity whereby one has to be seen to be doing something with one’s hands. Most people can’t walk down the road without having one hand occupied. Are you one of these people? I take my hat off to those brave souls who are confident enough to walk with both hands free, hair blown back in the wind, ha!

Also time yourself and see just how long you can wait, standing at the side of the street for a bus or friend to arrive, with your arms and hands naturally down at your sides doing nothing. I dare you! Do it when your with your mates if your up for a laugh.

I admit I do feel very self-conscious when I’m not holding anything as I walk down the street. I experimented holding the end strap of my rucksack and other non-visible things like my keys and it took the edge off noticeably.

The next phase: So where’s all this going then? Actually I envisage nothing short of some dark sci-fi nightmare where people have a watch or similar item linked to a set of contact lenses. People won’t need to hold anything, just stare blankly in a seated line on the subway talking to themselves.



28 replies

  1. This was one of the nice things about El Salvador; people there were not glued to their phones to the extent that they are there or even here in the US. Sadly, it is less of a personal choice and more due to protecting their phones from theft, but it was still a pleasant break from typical life here. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post Andy — has some dark possibilities — wonder if it played out in Turkey recently where people took to the streets to face down a coupe?
    Assume the ” Great Wall ” has no impact to “we chat ” accept the govt can at a whim shut it down I assume ? That would cause pandemonium , stress attacks , hear attacks etc as folk reacted to loss of connectivity.
    Was the same in Japan , however people on trains don’t take voice calls , considered poor form and warning messages about this are prominent , but everyone is still fiddling with them.
    For the solo traveller , they do have some useful function. I have often thought that the definition of loneliness could be ” dining at a restaurant alone ”
    A phone , or in my case the iPad , is like my significant other , fills the gap. I can blog , read or send messages in this space.
    However the poor bastards who become ” phone holders” are doomed to 100% connectivity that can go right thru. the night too. Sad

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes usefulness and brain-death are two separate issues for sure. Yesterday nearly everyone was on their phones. It seemed not one person was able to just sit there and think. BTW thanks for the follow as they say in blog space LOL > we should catch up one day and have a few beers mate


    • Hi there Bruce > After all your advice I am still a bit lost with the USB issue for the iPad. I was wondering if you could post a link to the plug via Amazon so I know exactly what I’m looking for. Sorry to be dense but I asked a few iPad users and they all said everything should be uploaded via Itunes aaaaagh! They had no idea about a USB plug or adapter. I frigging hate Itunes. So I’m talking about connecting my camera via USB to the iPad and putting all my photos onto the iPad. I guess that would include memory sticks etc….If you could take a couple of minutes to send me a link I would seriously appreciate it. Thanks Bruce


      • Andy – give me an email address and we can sort this out .
        Looks like some confusion between what is required for photos and what is needed for the Apps ( sadly iTunes )
        And power management .
        It’s best decision to use the iPad — better energy life – charge from car 12 volts – longer battery life –
        And apps 🙄
        iPad and iPhone use a common cable called lightning – I can send you a photo of the short cable / adapter used to connect the iPad to a camera .
        Don’t underestimate the importance and usefulness of apps – they can help a traveller in a foreign land – navigation – translation – music – books – and let’s no forget the useful WordPress app !
        Lots of creative talent goes into app development .

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hi there Bruce > re apps no doubt. Yes all I want to do is transfer photos from my camera to the iPad. My address is andysmart6866@msn.com though a link to anything similar on Amazon would sure be useful. I’ve kept your messages on Word btw as they’re so useful.


  3. This begs the question of how the human body will evolve in the future ! How will it adapt to smartphone use ? As an oldie I bought a simple talk and text phone and the young sales man took it very personally. He assured me all people under 30 bought a new phone every two years. I took this to mean that smart phones are only made to last for two years with typical under thirties use. I told him I was 69, and he was very annoyed. Looked like he really only wanted to sell to the youngest third of the population.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hiya Lifecameos > Nice of you to drop by again. Yes it is worrying where it will all go next. Its bad enough as it is. I have a smartphone as it was a freebee but honestly I wanted a builders Nokia. Sad days that they’ve gone now. I remember going to the Apple shop and had a similar experience as you. They just didnt want to know. I waited for hours until I got served. …….Have a brilliant weekend mate

      Liked by 1 person

  4. People here in Blighty are almost similarly transfixed by their phones – whatsapp being the goto app of chat etc… And now with the launch of Pokemon Go we see even more of them! Although this shows the young people now out and about as opposed to merely being stuck in their rooms, eyes glued to their laptop screens, fingers tapping furiously away whilst blasting some virtual monster. I think it’s been great for my sons who were previously sedentary; a couple of them even taking out cobwebby bikes from the shed to go even further afield on their quests 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hiya Sally > Yes I did see the Pokemon madness on Facebook. I mean totally crazy behaviour. Where is it all going? Perplexing or what? Wishing you an awesome weekend 🙂


  5. This happens even in India with everyone buried in their phones. Everyone is on What’sApp all the time but whenever you really want someone to respond on an important call/message there is invariably no answer! I find it extremely annoying and identify with this post totally. Great read Andy, your posts make me smile as always:)

    Liked by 2 people

  6. There is one major issue come out from this topic – how the overuse of cell phone shapes our way of communication in the future? And I dont think it will have positive effects on interpersonal communication as it will make phone-holders look aloof. I, myself, would not approach someone when they on their phones.

    Another thing is I have even seen this phenomenal happens at some restaurants in Toronto – couples eating while gluing to their phones. They barely talk to each other during the entire course of the meal. I wonder if some people come to restaurants just to eat and look at their cell phones what is the point to eat out with their friends? I sometimes wish we just go back to the old times where the phone is only used for communication.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hiya Julie > Yes its totally mad. Sometimes I cant stand it. I went for a walk last night and this guy walked mast me on his phone. He went into a restaurant and sat down with someone who was waiting for them. They continued talking on their phone while the other guy waited. His call lasted another 5 minutes. Crazy! Further on with my walk, everyone was glued to their phone. Honestly I go through pockets of annoyance. My sister in law is having terrible trouble with their kid who cant stop playing games on his phone. Yes > What is the point in eating out with friends? Absolutely!!!!!!!! We should create a group Julie > Maybe the ASPL Anti Smart Phone Leage. Ha!

      Liked by 1 person

      • haha I love the idea of ASPL ! And we should meet when I back in China as it seems we are the few souls not glue to their electronic gadgets. I started canceling dinner with my friends and refuse some social invitations because some my friends always check at their phones while eating and there is nothing of importance ( mom called, boyfriend texted, need to schedule a trip or something, I am like dude just stay at at home and don’t come out with me). Worst is couples break up via wechat and texting, seriously? It is a total madness! Anyway glad to see there are still people value the interpersonal communication as it is getting rare this days.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hey Julie > Here’s another common one I just noticed yesterday. So your in the lift and hit the 12th floor. The lift stops at an earlier floor and the doors open but there’s no one there. The doors start to close and just as they are 1cm away from closing they open again. There was actually someone around the corner waiting for the lift and didnt see or hear the doors open because they were glued to their phone. Into the lift they come wandering in stuck to their phone in a bid to avoid eye contact, blaaaagh. Just another one of those minor irritations I guess. I must write a positive post next time 🙂 LOL

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hiya Julie > Damn, I knew there was something I forgot > Of course let me know when you come back to China. I’ve never met a fellow WP buddy before so would be awesome 🙂 Keep me posted

        Liked by 1 person

  7. same scenario here in Malaysia too. kids up to adults are glued to their devices. even the doctors i work with! while i deny i dont use a mobile either i do think some people take it too far, just like the friend who mentioned whose girlfriends turns to her mobile after their time together, my colleague recently tripped and fell while texting and not looking where he was going, now he’s laid off 6 weeks from a broken ankle! Whats app is the culprit here and people text more than they speak, i love the art of conversation though i may not contribute enough! haha! but human interaction is losing its luster it seems. i am glad there are people like you who understand the curse of the mobile era and appreciate that we are losing a special connection when we just stop and speak. this must have been something you felt really strongly about to write at length, well written and so full of feeling!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey there Singledust > Totally gone too far now! I am planning a trip and am considering getting an iPad to stay connected to WP and other social media sites. 10 years ago I happily spent years without any gadgetry and wrote all my thoughts down on paper. ……I cant stand seeing everyone glued to their phone. I mean I absolutely cant stand it anymore. Its therefore tough living in a city of 21 million where everyone is addicted. AAAAAAAAGH! Thanks for dropping by mate 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Same here in Korea, but with KakaoTalk. I am so glad my students (mostly) don’t have cell phones yet because they’re too young. But on the subway, and walking down the streets, same deal. I almost crash into people glued to their phone daily. What can ya do?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly! What can we do? I realised yesterday the need to create some kind of stop button when I dont get irritated. Its a tough one though. Thanks for dropping by my blog. Nice one on that and have a good un.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Hey, I actually put my phone down to read your excellent post! 🙂 People have become phone zombies. I went to our corner store recently and had to “ahem” at the clerk who was busily texting as I waited for her to ring up my purchase, and she had the audacity to look annoyed. I’ll text her the link to your post. 😀 Thanks Andy, for another brilliant article!

    Liked by 1 person

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