Instagram Gains Popularity In China As Parent Company Facebook Remains Blocked

Though Weibo has become China’s biggest social media platform, Instagram, a photo editing and social media tool developed in San Francisco, has been adding a large number of users in the Chinese market. While Instagram’s parent company, social media giant Facebook (NASDAQ: FB), has been blocked in mainland China for several years, the photo editing and sharing application is still allowed by the nation’s Internet censors.

Although Instagram hasn't visibly promoted itself in the Chinese market, it's been very successful with Chinese netizens. Last year, the two-year-old photo editing program introduced an update to the application allowing it to support Weibo, China’s version of Twitter. Just a month after the update was integrated, more than 100,000 images were uploaded in China.

While the Chinese government seems unperturbed by Instagram’s growing popularity at the moment, one user said her photos are sometimes subject to criticism by people who say she's portraying the country in a bad light. Recently, China Daily wrote about a woman named Emily, who goes by the handle beijingemily. She was an American expatriate living in Beijing (she has since moved to Australia) who used Instagram to share her daily sights and musings from around the city. Soon, her casual shots of historic hutongs and portraits of people -- with captions in both Chinese and English -- had an audience exceeding 73,000 people, most of them Chinese citizens. That number has since exceeded 100,000.

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Now Emily says she has had to become more aware and cautious of what she posts to her account since she knows that many of her followers are Chinese. “Now I kind of feel like I have more of a responsibility about what I post,” she said, saying that she tends to stick to pictures of hutongs and markets.

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“The other thing is once I started getting more followers, I kind of had to be careful about the things I was posting because some things ended up kind of hurting Chinese people’s feelings or offending them,” she said. “I’ve had a couple pictures of trash and things like that, trash collectors, and Chinese people maybe felt very upset or betrayed that I had posted a picture that they thought didn’t represent China in a good way.”

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For the most part, however, most seem to be fans of Emily’s photographs, gaining insight to everyday life in Beijing. According to her profile, she has spent the past year in Australia traveling, and she will likely not have to worry about any criticism from Chinese people. 

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