I’m no stranger to online communication, such is the life of someone who has friends and family spanning the entire globe. From Facebook-inclined family members to Weixin-reliant colleagues, just name a random SNS and I’ve most likely used it.
That is, except for TikTok. You can drag me kicking and screaming and I’d still refuse to use TikTok.
Regardless, here is a pros and cons breakdown of the various SNS I use and how popular they are in my social circle. Not to say that my social circle is extensive by any means; I can name only five or so friends I chat with on the regular and exchange meaningfully meaningless memes with and, to no one’s surprise, they all use different SNS.
SNS and LiberaTarts: What I Use and With Whom I Use Them
I’ve made some ridiculous titles in my time, but nothing beats this one I bet! But let’s quickly move on from mid-20th century magical adventures to the more relevant mid-pandemic technological mainstays in our everyday lives. Do people still use Snapchat? I still do, but only because I Snapchatted my way through Japan back in 2017 and I keep putting off exporting those video files to my OneDrive account – is there even a way to do that en masse?
If anyone knows how – let me know and I’ll forever be in your favour!
Anyway, let’s start with an oldie but a goodie: Facebook.
Facebook’s popularity rose and waned during my formative years, peaking around the time I was in high school in the Philippines before shuffling off into obscurity as I transitioned from Sixth Form to university. Maybe my perception of its rise and fall has something to do with geography: moving home from Small Town, Philippines to One-Hour-Away-From-the-Capital-City, England changed my social circle drastically.
Nevertheless, the only people that I regularly interact with on Facebook are my family: my grandparents in the Philippines and my aunt in the US. And I can say this is the absolute truth until I moved to China and was, therefore, unable to use my UK SIM card on the regular – but thank goodness for VPNs otherwise I wouldn’t be able to use anything Facebook-related at all!
Anyway, turns out that a lot more of my friends use Facebook Messenger that I thought: my best friend from college, some people from my old course at uni… my friend from high school who reaches out to me sometimes because, and I assume this with the kindest of intentions, that she is considers me the frontline news source about COVID-19 given that I live in China. (That doesn’t make sense to me; does it make sense to you? Where’s the logic?)
Instagram Direct Messenger
I have about three different Instagram accounts and only use one religiously. I have a friend that I met in Texas – we met one summer and had a strange, family-induced friendship after which I returned to the UK for uni and somehow (???) we stayed in touch through Instagram? I feel like we would be the best of friends if the world threw us together grographically, since we both seem to enjoy the same kind of media, have simmilar political views, and even the same taste in celebrity crushes.
The pros and cons with using Instagram DMs, however, is that they are DMs. I don’t use Instagram to chat with people! I use it to post cute pictures of myself or the food that I’m guiltily spending a lot of money on, or even a wonderful piece of scenery that I happen to come across.
Regardless, Instagram is a wonderful place to send second-hand memes without actually sharing my Tumblr account.
WhatsApp was big in Spain, and I can say this because I lived in the Barcelona province for about five or six months. No one bothered to get me a Spanish SIM card, and they all (correctly) assumed that my UK data plan worked in mainland Europe. This was way, way before any Brexit deals have come into fruition, so I suppose it really wouldn’t have mattered either way.
I keep in touch with One™ Close If Not Really A Best Friend on WhatsApp, sneakily lurk at an OAP* language exchange group, and that’s pretty much it. My immediate family had a group chat for whenever we were all in the UK together, but that’s migrated over to Skype now that I’ve moved to China.
Keeping in contact with my immediate family – my mother and my younger brother – is a priority that I am not willing to compromise on. While my close friends dillied and dallied about creating Skype accounts to keep in touch with me in China (I’ve long since given up on this, and just paid for a secure and reliable VPN service), my family were more than willing to cooperate with me. And I love them for it.
Maybe it’s because they’re used to keeping in tough with people abroad (grandparents, aunts, etc.), but the ease in which they agreed to accommodate me was truly heartwarming.
The beauty of Skype, however, is that I can call UK numbers from my account and it would not cost a thing. I’m not sure if I subscribed to some kind of international plan 15 months ago, but it’s been so long and nothing has ben credited from any linked accounts. Just last night, I called my ‘local’ library in the UK and had them reset my password so that I can borrow ebook and audiobooks from their collection. Skype is beautiful, y’all.
I’m not a gamer and wouldn’t even pretend to be one even if I was dared to try. My brother introduced this way of communication as a means to watch some TV shows together – this was way before we figured out Skype had share screen capabilities. Anyway, I took Discord like any bored twentysomething stuck in quarantine: I created channels for watch parties and, yes, my very own International Book Club.
I might even be tempted to use Discord for what it was originally created, which is to stream games and talk to other gamers. During this past Spring Festival, I managed to clock 80+ hours within the week I had off work playing this game called Rimworld. It’s hardly a new game, but it’s not quite old either. Nevertheless, I look forward to exploring what Discord has to offer me, despite needing a VPN for me to access it.
WeChat, a.k.a. Wēixìn 微信
It’s a disservice to create a post about communication apps that I use on the regular and not mention that app I used the most. I use this app more often than I do my regular text app and, aside from Chrome, it’s my top-used app. I use it for work: to communicate with co-workers, people from Head Office in charge of my visa and residence permits, and with random people I meet and end up making friends here in China.
You can also use WeChat to pay for things – so goodbye contactless payments or whatever fancy NFC payments your personal device offers! WeChat (or Alipay, depending on your loyalty) is the head honcho over here. I brought Chinese currency – actual, physical cash – with me to tide me over my first few weeks living in this country, and still now, even more than fifteen months later, I still have some cash left over because everything – and I do mean everything – is paid over WeChat.
I pay my rent through WeChat (direct payment to my landlord), I use the mini-programs to top-up my electricity, and I order food and pay for it online using WeChat. IT’s so damn convenient I don’t think I can go back to using cards and cash like people are used to outside of China. And I’ve lived the cash-society life in Japan and, to some extent, the Philippines. I don’t like handling cash – it’s too messy.
WeChat is supreme, I think, but as a communications app? I’m afraid foreigners are at an disadvantage because we are unable to create a second account. This means our personal and work lives are so closely linked that they’re actually one and the same. I have to turn on my phone’s Do Not Disturb just so the extreme night owls at work wouldn’t message me during my time off. Yes, I’m still awake but I’m not at work anymore! Stop bothering me about something we can talk about tomorrow when we see each other at the office.
Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Skype, Discord, and WeChat. Six apps I use to communicate with my family, friends, and coworkers around the world. God help me.
Over to you, my dear readers: What’s your go-to message app? Do you have separate apps for different purposes (like me) or do you just use the one or two? Do you think I’m neurotic for juggling all of these? Let me know in the comments below.