A platform of 457 million netizens and 303 million people using mobile phones for Internet access has made micro-blogging a hugely popular activity. Liu Zhihua reports.
A typical day in the life of Beijing jewelry designer and fashion freelancer Wang Xiaomo begins about 9 am, when she logs onto the micro-blogging service Sina Weibo. "I cannot imagine life without it,?the 26 year-old says.
In August 2010, she used the service for the first time and quickly saw its worth. She soon made new online friends and found opportunities to boost her career, such as tweeted details of her college graduation designs and illustration samples.
"I like the way I make friends with people in the industry through micro-blogging," Wang says.
Over the past three years, more than 50 operators have established micro-blogging services in the country, such as the major Web portals Sina.com, Sohu.com and Tencent.com.
Both Tencent.com and Sina.com have announced the number of registered users surpassed 100 million, respectively, on Feb 5 and March 2.
"Micro-blogging is popular because it appeals to Chinese netizens' habits", says Hu Yong, an expert on new media from the School of Journalism and Communication of Peking University.
"The innovations of Chinese service providers enable users to comment on and upload videos, which is very appealing. Chinese love chatting with one another in online forums."
Mobile phone applications that connect to micro-blogging services have also made it easier to stay connected.
"When my friends and I go to KTV, or have dinner together, no one talks. Everyone is having a good time micro-blogging via cell phones," says Ding Senxing, a website editor at Tencent Website News Center.
Ding is a passionate user of micro blogs. He has being using services provided by Twitter.com, Sina.com, Fanfou.com, Netease.com and Tencent.com.
"Micro blogs provide a fast way to get information and communicate with others," Ding says.
On his favorite, Tencent.com's micro blog, which he registered as soon as it was available in April 2010, he has 3,330 followers.
"I care about the growth in followers a lot and used to discuss with others how to increase the amount," Ding says.
Micro blogs, he says, are not simply a platform for self-expression and gossip, but interactive media to pull and push information, and to network.
During the New Year holiday, when Ding found that in his hometown in the county of Shanghang, Fujian province, nearly 90 percent of the applicants for low-income housing were public employees, he posted the information on his micro blog.
The news was widely commented on and retweeted, until such newspapers as China Youth Daily and Beijing News picked up the story and ran with it.
Asking for someone's micro blog handle is the new, fashionable way of hooking up with friends, says Huang Minjun.
Huang is a high school student in Yingkou, Liaoning province.
"Without micro blogs, life would be colorless," he says.
Since Huang opened a micro blog in August 2010, he has been tweeting regularly, on the way to school, during class breaks and before going to bed.
He logs on to Sina Weibo every day, via his computer or cell phone.
"I like micro-blogging because I can express my feelings whenever and wherever I want to," Huang says. "A micro blog is like a best friend that will listen to you all the time."
According to an online survey of users' behavior by Sina Weibo from Feb 26 to 28, of 2,997 respondents, 63 percent said the first thing they thought to do after seeing or hearing something funny, was to blog about it. About 60 percent said they spent a lot of time on micro blogs, and 36 percent said they would feel uneasy if they did not use the service once a day.
There is even a name for extreme micro-bloggers, "Weibo Kong", which literally means "micro blog addicts".
"Micro blogs have a very large potential user base. Even though some people quit the service, others will join up," Hu Yong at Peking University says. "The trend will continue for quite a while."
According to the 27th Statistical Survey on the Internet Development in China, published on Jan 19 by China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), China has about 457 million netizens, and 303 million people use mobile phones for Internet access.
"Micro-blogging meets basic human needs, such as socializing and entertainment, but everything should have a limit to keep it beneficial rather than harmful," says Xia Baoyu, a consultant at Renai Huixin Psychology Consulting Center.
Ding Senxing admits that he and his friends may occasionally be a bit too enthusiastic about micro-blogging.
"I do agree micro-blogging at parties and ignoring people in the real world is very rude."
(China Daily 03/10/2011 page20)