The year 2015 wasn’t just a big year for Chinese social media – it was also a big year for Liz Carter. The author, journalist and former Tea Leaf Nation editor published her book Let 100 Voices Speak: How the Internet is Transforming China and Changing Everything this year, which we described in our July issue “as much a compilation of the major events, memes and phenomena to have emerged in the Web 2.0 era as it is a prescriptive analysis.” We spoke with Carter about the biggest online trends of 2015.
Who was the online hero of 2015?
If I had to pick a hero from 2015, it would be that teacher with the 10-character resignation letter: “世界那么大，我想去看看" (“It’s a big world, I wanna go see it”). I think the spirit behind that is pretty 2015 – startups and other risky ventures are getting more and more popular.
What about the online villains?
For single people, the celebrities who got married in grand style this year – Liu Qiangdong and bubble-tea girl, Angelababy and Huang Xiaoming, and Jay Chou and Hannah Quinlivan – probably didn’t make November 11 any easier. Fan Bingbing and her boo didn’t get married, but they get an honorable mention for sheer amount of non-news generated.
What was 2015’s best meme?
I don't think it was a meme exactly, but my favorite social media development of the year was the WeChat hongbao function. It was around in 2014 but became really popular earlier this year during the Spring Festival. Integration of mobile payment apps into everyday life is also a big trend. It's definitely happening faster in places like Beijing than, say, DC.
Was 2015 the year that WeChat finally overtook Weibo?
Weibo is dead. Now it's just a place for celebrities to show off how happy they are and for companies to advertise their products. WeChat is everywhere, but it doesn't totally replace Weibo. There's a saying that goes: “On Facebook, it's all the people you know but have nothing in common with, and on Twitter, it's all people you don't know but have everything in common with.” WeChat is not yet a community of ideas, although it does damn near everything else, and does it well.
Which new social media platform should we be keeping an eye out for?
I can’t think of any – I guess 2016 will be the year to look out for surprises!
Carter’s book Let 100 Voices Speak: How the Internet is Transforming China and Changing Everything is available on Amazon and for Kindle.