China Tried to Keep Kids Off Social Media. Now the Elderly Are Hooked (LAVENDER AU, NOV 25, 2023, Wired)

Gao is 69 years old, one of a growing cohort of elderly people who have moved away from television and gravitated to Douyin, China’s most popular short-form video app. There are 267 million people aged over 60 in China, according to official statistics, and while China’s government has tried to limit young people’s use of Douyin, worried about its addictive nature, many of the app’s habitual users are their parents, or even grandparents.

“Whenever he’s not cooking, swimming, or sleeping, he’s on Douyin,” his daughter Helen says. “It’s brainless entertainment. It’s better to be playing with a cat, it’s better to be doing anything else.” She’s not a Douyin user herself. “I already have attention problems,” she says. “Douyin would make that worse.”

A former soldier, Gao follows the Israel-Palestine crisis and the war between Ukraine and Russia through videos made by commentators. He shows me one where a political analyst translates headlines from English-language media outlets, such as The Times of Israel. He watches others for their analysis of military strategy.

While television broadcasts the official viewpoint, Gao says that on Douyin there are often videos from different camps putting their views across. The censors might get to them after a while, but it’s possible to witness a spectrum of opinions.