China's latest internet sensation: young man's hand-drawn guide to WeChat for his parents

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 February, 2014, 4:08pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 February, 2014, 5:42pm

Teaching ageing parents to use new mobile applications can be time-consuming, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be painful or tedious as a young man from Beijing has demonstrated after creating a nine-page guide to an instant messaging application for his parents.

The handwritten guide book by Zhang Ming, a 26-year-old man who works in Beijing, went viral on China’s online social networking community on Tuesday after his former schoolmate displayed photos of his gift to his parents on its Sina Weibo microblog.

Photos seen on Sina Weibo showed a small notebook with hand-drawn illustrations of the interactive screens of Wechat, a popular mobile messaging application, and a step-by-step guide of the various functions like sending photos, voice messages, and video chat.

Tricky steps needing close attention are highlighted in red while emoticons that illustrate various facial impressions are laid out in vivid colours and treated with a cartoon approach.

The guide book prompted a number of major news outlets to repost the photos on their blog accounts.

Zhang told Chongqing Evening News that he had prepared this pictured booklet hoping that it would help his ageing parents to learn to use Wechat better, so he could more easily communicate with them. They currently live in Shandong province in eastern China, hundred of kilometres from Beijing.

“Since [you] may not be able to master WeChat quickly, just slow down and thumb through this little book. Hopefully it can reassure your anxieties,” wrote Zhang on the booklet’s cover page.

Zhang, who went to college in Chongqing and has worked in Beijing for several years, said he has been only reunited with his parents for a few weeks in each of the past eight years. He came up with the idea of the guide after his parents failed to master the application during his last visit before he had to return to Beijing.

Online users praised Zhang’s fresh approach and his special efforts in teaching his parents how to use mobile technology.

“This is so touching,” one blogger commented. Another added “this is full of love,” an opinion echoed by many.

Others appeared to want to make practical use of the booklet themselves. “Seriously, does anyone have the completed version? I am going to teach my grandparents using this as well,” one blogger said.

But one unimpressed blogger suspected the posting was a PR stunt by the WeChat application operator. “With the amount of time spent on drawing, you would have had more than enough time to teach them already,” another critical comment read.

Zhang did not answer telephone inquires from South China Morning Post on Wednesday.  

The little instruction book has already taken effect, according to Zhang. His parents are more familiar with the application and can keep in touch with their son.

“[I] can now chat with my son every now and then, knowing what he is up to every day. That’s a big relief,” Zhang’s mother was cited saying.