Essential Chinese Phrases for the Social Media Addict

Admit it: you checked your newsfeed this morning before you even got out of bed. You pick your meals based on how good you think they’ll look on Instagram. And yes, you even browse Twitter when going number 2.

If these symptoms sound familiar, your addiction is probably well into the advanced stages and likely incurable. Maybe you even came to China hoping to detox from Facebook, only to become hopelessly addicted to WeChat within your first week here. So rather than doing something crazy like deleting your Snapchat account or making futile efforts to use fewer emojis, I recommend leaning into your social media obsession to help increase your understanding of China’s language, culture, and society. Here are some essential phrases for navigating Chinese social media:

1.加微信jiā wēixìn: add someone on WeChat

Asking for someone’s mobile phone number is so 2010! Whether it’s classmates, coworkers, clients or even your favorite street barbeque vendor, if you want to make friends with people in China it invariably involves adding each other on WeChat.


Why don’t I add you on Wechat?


Wǒ jiā xià nǐ wēixìn ba.


Sounds good, I’ll scan you.


Hǎo a, nà wǒ sǎo nǐ ba.


Supplementary: 扫 sǎo  Literally “to sweep” but in this context means to “scan” (as in to scan a QR code).

Wechat friend request

2.发朋友圈fā péngyǒuquān / 发微博 fā wēibó: post to WeChat moments/post to Weibo

Once you’ve got a few people following you, it’s time to bombard them with daily (or hourly) reminders of how much more interesting your life is than theirs. That means posting content, which is expressed with the verb 发fā (literally “to send out”, as in 发邮件fā yóujiàn, “send an email”); note that what is called “Moments” in the English edition of WeChat is known as 朋友圈péngyǒuquān or “Friends Circle” in the Chinese version.

Why does Chad always have to post pictures of his BMW on Instagram? We all know his family is rich. He doesn’t have to constantly show off.

为什么Chad总是在Instagram上发他的宝马。我们都知道他家有钱,他也不用总是炫耀吧。Wèishéme Chad zǒngshì zài Instagram shàng fā tā de bǎomǎ. Wǒmen dōu zhīdào tā jiā yǒuqián, tā yě bùyòng zǒngshì xuànyào ba.

Instagram likes

supplementary: 转发zhuǎnfā: to repost (social media)/to forward (email)

Sometimes other people’s posts are just better than yours, but reposting can still pick up a few likes for yourself!

I reposted a really cute cat video I saw on Weibo the other day.


nàitiān wǒ zài wēibó shàng zhuǎnfāle yī gè chāo méng de māomī de shìpín.

Wechat news

3.赞zàn/点赞/diǎn zàn: a like/ to like

Life, unlike elementary school, doesn’t give out report cards. For those of us who have a crippling dependency on the approval of others, social media likes are like manna from heaven (presuming you get them).


It’s already been one hour and my post hasn’t got any likes yet! What’s going on!?!


zěnme huí shì! yī gè xiǎoshí le, wǒ gāngcái fā de zhàopiàn zěnme yī gè zàn dōu méiyǒu


So many people liked the pictures I posted on my WeChat Moments.


wǒ gāngcái zài wēixìn shàng fā de túpiàn hǎoduō rén diǎnle zàn.

4.评论 pínglùn: a comment/ to comment

As we all know, the comment sections of social media and video websites are the place to go for balanced discussions of complex issues. Note that评论pínglùn can be used as both a noun and verb.


Why didn’t you reply to my comment? Relationship over!!!


nǐ wèishéme méi huífù wǒ de pínglùn? fēnshǒu!!!


Did you comment on the thing she just posted on Weibo?


tā gāngcái fā de wéibó nǐ pínglùn le ma?

5. 关注guānzhù /关注者 guānzhùzhe: follow/follower

In the post-industrial, post -truth, big data-driven gig economy we all inhabit, the only thing more valuable than gold (apart from Bitcoin, apparently) is having a ton of followers on social media. In the context of mainland China, this mainly applies to platforms like Weibo微博, Zhihu知乎 (Chinese Quora), Douban豆瓣 (a film/TV/music/book reviewing website) and WeChat 微信 (for public accounts).


I follow many of my favorite musicians on Twitter.


wǒ zài Twitter shàng guānzhù le hěnduō wǒ xǐhuān de gēshǒu.


Stars like Angelababy often have millions of followers on Weibo.


xiàng AB nàyàng de míngxīng zài wēibó shàng yǒu chéng bǎi shàng qiānwàn de guānzhùzhe.

Chinese social media

Supplementary:  粉丝fěnsī: fans/followers

Depending on the context, this is also the word for vermicelli noodles;  however when talking about social media it’s a loanword meant to imitate the sound of the English word “fans”; on certain sites (like Weibo) it also carries the same meaning as “followers”.


The “fan economy” has taken off online this year.


jīnnián hùliánwǎng quān què yě xiānqǐle fěnsī jīngjì rècháo

Now that you’ve got the basics down, stay tuned for part 2. We’ll be discussing memes, stickers, internet celebrities and more.  And of course, don’t forget to 发朋友圈!

Interested in reading more about Chinese culture, see our past articles on “Social media in China” and  “Dating apps in China” .

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