Overloaded China users battle ‘WeChat fatigue’
China’s most popular chat app has seen off rivals in China such as Alibaba’s Laiwang, Korean-Japanese Line and Facebook’s WhatsApp. But now some users of WeChat — and even its creator — say it is threatened by a greater homegrown challenge: clutter.
Since its launch in 2011, WeChat, or Weixin as it is more commonly known in China, has become synonymous with the mobile internet for China’s 525m smartphone users, an addictive way to chat online that has won international praise for its minimalist design.
It is hard to overstate the pervasiveness of WeChat in Chinese life — the app is a phone, messenger, video conference, ecommerce platform and gaming console, not to mention noodle delivery service, for a nation of people in love with their smartphones. Many a new relationship is sealed with the ritual smartphone “scan“ of one anothers’ WeChat QR code.
But popularity has come at a price: users say they are being overloaded with everything from messages to cartoon gifs to ads.
Xie Huang Huang, writing on his microblog, says he hesitates to open up his WeChat because he will be flooded with messages. “I was attracted to WeChat because I thought it was virgin land in an age of information explosion. But now it is fragmented, overwhelming and useless.“
In January, China’s official news agency Xinhua devoted an editorial to “WeChat fatigue“, saying an estimated 25 per cent of users check it more than 30 times per day. “We have been abducted by an explosion of rubbish“ on WeChat, it said.
“Everyday we find ourselves surrounded by noisy WeChat groups, the endless memories posts of friends and family, they have become our daily essentials. No one likes being kidnapped by WeChat, but each of us have our own reasons for not being able to give up WeChat.“
The app is central to the future of Tencent, China’s most valuable internet company with a market capitalisation of $185bn, which has staked its business model on the success of its star platform.