Chinese Journal of Sociology ›› 2023, Vol. 43 ›› Issue (1): 138-172.

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The Change of Interaction Rules in the Mobile Internet Era: Take the Choice of Voice-Text Messages in WeChat as an Example

ZHENG Dandan, DONG Kehan   

  • Published:2023-03-08
  • Supported by:
    This research was supported by the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (2020WKZDJC019).

Abstract: The interaction theorists represented by Goffman have put forward a series of important theories about the micro-interaction order of daily life. However, with the advent of the mobile internet era, the rule and order of face-to-face interaction may have changed. Taking the choice of voice and text messages in WeChat as an example, this paper examines the characteristics of the time-space separation, and the impact of macro cultural background in the internet era on individual social interactions, expanding and enriching the relevant content of Interaction Ritual theory from the two aspects of cultural and technological changes. Through semi-structured interviews, it is found that the categorical impression management technology used by people in WeChat can be regarded as an online construction of offline differential associations in relationship. The spatio-temporal separation and reorganization mechanism of the Internet influence online interactions by affecting the interaction context. Specifically, this kind of interaction has caused the following changes. First, sending voice messages at will has become the privilege of the superior over the subordinate, and under the easier operation of reflective monitoring, the two-way avoidance ritual has become the one-way obligation of the subordinate, strengthening the interaction order. Second, there is a trend of de-common-situation in discrete WeChat interactions, embodied in the decrease of situation pressure and the necessity of situation accumulation. Therefore, reflective monitoring is easier to operate than before, resulting in simple general rules of interaction based on relative status. Third, the uncertainty of the interaction situation after the time-space separation and the solidification of interaction results cause the subordinate feel insecure and anxious about using voice messages. In addition, the discrepancy between the interaction discussed in this study and Goffman's theory may also be related to the uniqueness of Chinese culture. Due to technological progress and changes in social structure, the making of WeChat interaction rules is still in progress and it demands long-term observation and careful analysis.

Key words: WeChat, voice and text, interaction ritual, time-space separation