Emily is a 24 year old American living in Beijing. Like many millennials she regularly posts photos on her Instagram, many of which are from ancient hutongs.
Last year, Emily received an email from Instagram saying she’d been highlighted as a suggested user, after which her followers would swell from a modest 70 to over 116,000.
This newfound fame brought with it newfound problems however. She says some Chinese users feel “upset and betrayed” when she’d post photos “they thought didn’t represent China in a good way.” Users especially objected to her focus on hutongs, while they make for beautifully gritty images of old China, the odd garbage man or demolished house seems a far cry from the lightning-paced modernization in downtown Beijing and Shanghai.
Lots of followers leads to lots of comments. In an interview with China Daily, Emily said “Once I started getting more followers I kinda had to be more careful about the things that I was posting. Some things ended up hurting feelings and offending them.”
Instagram is one of the more popular foreign social apps that hasn’t been banned in China. The service’s relatively small user base (100 million compared to Sina Weibo’s 500 million or Facebook’s one billion) and lack of any feature that could be used to organise unrest seems to have saved it from the Great Firewall for now.
Since Facebook’s purchase of Instagram two years ago, tech experts have wondered out loud if Instagram will be Facebook’s way into China, or if Facebook will unwittingly drag Instagram onto the no-fly list.
I conducted a quick, unscientific survey of my Chinese friends to find out if it annoyed them when tourists or foreigners post “ugly” pictures of Shanghai. Most answered no, one saying “it’s okay, it’s still a part of China. I love her no matter how ugly she is”. Guess that means it’s okay to keep posting photos of Pudong.
Have you ever been criticised for what you choose to post photos of on Instagram in China? Let us know in the comments or email [email protected].
[By Angela Sy // Image credit: @beijingemily // Via: MIC Gadget]