Can you live without WeChat for 12 hours?

Our world has changed from ‘I’ll call you’ to ‘I’ll message you’. In China, WeChat is the main tool through which people connect to each other in their daily lives – despite it only going online 6 years ago. But, where is the line between connected and over-connected?

To show just how enmeshed WeChat is within Chinese people daily lives, the WeChat team and Saatchi & Saatchi Guangzhou have invited six people from different backgrounds to join the WeChat lab, where they would document participants life for 12 hours without the communications app.

1. My better half
Two colleagues, after hitting it off on WeChat, decided to get together. This kind of fast-developing relationship can often lead to a crisis of confidence.

WeChat lab invited them to take part in the experiment and live without WeChat for 12 hours. Could they find a way to be together?

For these two, love came faster than a sense of security. And, while the video attracted more than 1 million views, the love didn’t last.

2. My fun
Going from smartphone-incapable to WeChat masters, this retired couple from the Northeast uses WeChat as a source of entertainment and familial connection – using WeChat video calls to check in on the children. From nothing to something, from no friends to many friends, this couple seemed addicted to both internet and their smartphone.

They decided to join the experiment to challenge themselves to log out for 12 hours. But, how would they spend their leisure time?

Were they really addicted to WeChat? Or, were they addicted to the ability to send their love to children miles away in the blink of an eye? For these parents, they just love to show love.

3. The most important thing in my life
When most office workers open WeChat, it’s a mixture of friends and colleagues, group chatting about weekend plans or new projects. WeChat blends work life with the rest of life, so that the two are no longer at odds – no longer in competition for people’s limited attention.

Qin, a restaurant manager, relies on WeChat 24 hours a day to keep the business going. But, she is also mom to a five-year-old. Both roles are vital, both require nurturing, attention – love – to thrive. How will the WeChat lab affect her life?

4. My living depends on it
For real estate broker Zhu, WeChat is her livelihood. She uses it daily to connect with prospective clients and arrange her showings. WeChat allows her to connect quickly, easily, and let her leads respond in their own time, saving her embarrassment and them annoyance.

Once inside the WeChat lab, how will she replace such a vital tool?

Unread messages are better than thrown out pamphlets, for both Zhu and the environment. WeChat is her weapon of choice in her daily work and, after her experience in the WeChat lab, she now knows just how much more time she would have to invest without it.

5. My masochistic life
With 5,000 friends and 2,000 groups, screen name “Bai Ya (white crow)” is an entrepreneur with a deep attachment to WeChat. For him, there is no difference between work and life. If he is awake, he’s at work. More, if he’s awake, his phone is never out of his hand, the WeChat app always open. Joining the WeChat lab? In the words of his colleagues “that’s insane”.

If his life is a rollercoaster, he’s experiencing one of the most intense sections of track. WeChat is his safety buckle, keeping him on the ride as it speeds on ahead.

6. My Chinese friend
Jay is from Detroit, living the expat life in Shanghai. His days are filled with photography, skateboarding, and work. At the same time every day, he is on the phone with family, video chatting from across the International Date Line. During his time in the WeChat lab, he missed that daily call – almost causing an international incident in the process.

All in all, six people took part in the experiment, showing people what life would be like for just 12 waking hours without WeChat.

WeChat connects. But, the other side of that coin is separation. As the old adage goes, absence makes the heart grow fonder. An occasional separation can help you to realise what you can’t do without.

WeChat lab looks at connection from that side of the coin, highlighting its importance by taking it away. It prompts viewers to think about the connections between people and their phones, people and WeChat, and people themselves in order to realise that the essence of that connection is love.