How Asian Social Media Transformed a Quiet U.K. Walking Spot

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“When we search for London on social media, it’s the first thing we see,” Hyeon Hui Shin, a 28-year-old tourist from South Korea, said of the East Sussex cliffs, known as the Seven Sisters. “I didn’t know it was so far from London!”

The Seven Sisters — stark, white chalk cliffs facing the English Channel — have long been popular among hikers, a hardy, “walking type,” said Fran Downton, a marketing manager at Tourism South East, the region’s tourist board.

But over the past two years, visitors from China have been increasingly hopping on trains to make day trips here from London. Travelers from South Korea have now started joining them. And they are largely inspired by the cliffs’ appearances in social media, films — especially the “Harry Potter” series — and by recommendations from celebrities.

Asia’s smartphone addiction

Emoji tattoo

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Nomophobia – or no mobile phone phobia – the onset of severe anxiety on losing access to your smartphone has been talked about for years. But in Asia, the birthplace of the selfie stick and the emoji, psychologists say smartphone addiction is fast on the rise and the addicts are getting younger.

A recent study surveyed almost 1,000 students in South Korea, where 72% of children own a smartphone by the age of 11 or 12 and spend on average 5.4 hours a day on them – as a result about 25% of children were considered addicted to smartphones. The study, to be published in 2016 found that stress was an important indicator of your likelihood to get addicted.

Smartphones are central to many societies but they have been integrated into Asian cultures in many ways: there is the obligatory “food porn” photograph at the beginning of any meal; in Japan it is an entire subculture with its own name – keitai culture.

In South Korea, 19-year-old student Emma Yoon (not her real name) has been undergoing treatment for nomophobia since April 2013. “My phone became my world. It became an extension of me. My heart would race and my palms grew sweaty if I thought I lost my phone. So I never went anywhere without it.”

Have You Ever Wondered Why East Asians Spontaneously Make V-Signs in Photos?

Studio shot of male hand showing peace sign

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Spend a few minutes browsing social media, or watch groups of travelers posing in front of a popular tourist attraction, and you’re bound to come across it: attractive young Asians flashing smiles and making the V-for-Victory sign (or peace sign). The raised index and middle fingers, with palm facing outward, are as much a part of Asian portraiture as saying cheese is to English speakers. But why?

 …It was probably advertising that gave the gesture its biggest boost …Japanese media attribute the biggest role to Jun Inoue, singer with the popular band the Spiders. Inoue happened to be a celebrity spokesperson for Konica cameras, and supposedly flashed a spontaneous V-sign during the filming of a Konica commercial.

 …With the mass production of cameras, and a sudden surge in women’s and girls’ magazines in the 1980s, the aesthetics of kawaii — a visual culture superficially based on cuteness — took off. Suddenly, more women were posing for more shots, and more shots of women were being shared. V-signs proliferated much like today’s “duck face” pouts on Instagram and Facebook.

 “The V-sign was (and still is) often recommended as a technique to make girls’ faces appear smaller and cuter,” says Karlin.