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Social Media in Rural China

Social Networks and Moral Frameworks

China’s distinctive social media platforms have gained notable popularity among the nation’s vast number of internet users, but has China’s countryside been ‘left behind’ in this communication revolution? Tom McDonald spent 15 months living in a small rural Chinese community researching how the residents use social media in their daily lives. His ethnographic findings suggest that, far from being left behind, many rural Chinese people have already integrated social media into their everyday experience. Throughout his ground-breaking study, McDonald argues that social media allows rural people to extend and transform their social relationships by deepening already existing connections with friends known through their school, work or village, while also experimenting with completely new forms of relationships through online interactions with strangers, particularly when looking for love and romance. By juxtaposing these seemingly opposed relations, rural social media users are able to use these technologies to understand, capitalise on and challenge the notions of morality that underlie rural life.

234 pages | 6 1/5 x 9 1/4

Free digital open access editions are available to download from UCL Press.

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Table of Contents

"Introduction and field site: Down to the countryside

The Social Media Landscape: Visibility and economy

Visual Postings: Idealising family – love, marriage and ‘little treasures’

Relationships: Circles of friends, encounters with strangers

Moral accumulation: Collecting credits on social media

Broader relations: The family, the state and social media

Conclusion: Circles and Strangers, Media Moralities, and ‘the Chinese Internet’"

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