Recently I read a blog post saying that Chinese social media users are ‘happier’ and write ‘less political’ messages on their profiles than Westerners, according to a major new study by the computer scientists at the Delft University of Technology in Holland and the Shanghai Jiaotong University who studied 46 million messages posted on Twitter and the enormously popular Sina Weibo.
I think this is interesting because I use both Twitter and Sina Weibo very often. Here are some differences I came up with from my personal experience.
1. Identity verification: On Sina Weibo, most of the users have to submit their real identity to the Sina company in order to use more functions. A lot of Weibo users who have a large number of followers, such as celebrities, websites, and organizations, have already used their real name as account names, which encourages more new users to be identified to get certain badges beside their profiles. For example, I gave out my ID number to get verified so I got a new badge to show off.
2. Function of social media: Most of the time I see Weibo as a tool for entertainment merged with commercials because there is plenty of information regarding sales, constellation, comics and daily personal posts. Besides, it has been developed more like a Facebook in that there is an app and game center for users to connect and participate in this type of social media. On Twitter, on the other hand, the content created by users is more narrowed down. People tend to retweet more about political and other news without sharing too many personal stories or feelings.
3. Censorship: Obviously, corporations in mainland China such as Sina, for survival have to compromise to the censorship policies implemented by the Chinese government. Users create “happier” contents with the guidance and direction of Sina. Any inappropriate user content will be detected by the Sina system and deleted by the staff in charge. Sometimes, users’ accounts get blocked or the users get tracked down for posts that are considered sensitive. It’s hard to say Twitter has this similar implicit trend from my observation so far. But anyway, “less political” is sort of a condition for users to continue their rights of speech.