Tech helps, hurts long-dis­tance lovers

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - ByANGUS McNEICE in Lon­don an­gus@mail.chi­nadai­

Chi­nese leg­end has it that star-crossed lovers Zhinu and Ni­u­lang, ban­ished to op­po­site sides She of in­ter­viewedthe Milky Way, 18 are cou­plesonly re­unit­ed­from Asia, once Euro­pea year, on and the South­sev­enth Amer­i­ca­day of and the sev­enth re­layed moon, their when ex­pe­ri­encesa flock of through magpies nar­ra­tors,forms a bridge whose across voic­es­the “sil­ver­are over­laidriver.” like Qixi an Fes­ti­vale­cho on — Skype.or Chi­nese Valen­tine’s Each Day per­former— com­mem­o­rateswas given on per­mis­sionTues­day the to an­nual em­bel­lish meet­ing on of the that script, folk­loric leav­ing cou­ple. the au­di­ence Whileto de­cide lovers how head mu­chout on of ro­man­ticwhat they dates are across hear­ing Chi­nais theon Tues­day,truth. many of the ap­prox­i­mately “Trust 50 is mil­lion­the most Chi­nese im­por­tantwho live thing,” abroad said will Sean, have a to Chi­ne­se­make do man­age­men­twith mo­bile con­sul­tan­tapps to con­nect from with Changchun, part­ners back Jilin home. prov­ince, who Lon­don-based­works in Lon­don. artist Zhu Xiaowen“You trust found her that to whilenot do tech­nol­ogy the things you makes imag­ine, long-dis­tanceyou trust re­la­tion­ship­sher to tell you what more she’s con­ve­nient, feel­ing emo­tion­ally,it of­ten has and un­ex­pect­edyou do con­se­quences.the same,” Sean, who did not want Zhu his ex­plores­last namethe com­plex­i­tiesused, told Chi­naof 21st-cen­tu­ryDaily. long-dis­tance re­la­tion­ship­sSean’s girl­friendin a video lives pre­sen­ta­tion nearly 8,500 on kilo­me­ters­dis­play through­away in Tues­day Bei­jing. at Theythe Chi­nagot to­gether Ex­change whilecul­tural study­ing cen­ter in in cen­tral Bris­tol Lon­ 2009

She in­ter­viewed 18 cou­ples from Asia, Europe and South Amer­ica and re­layed their ex­pe­ri­ences through nar­ra­tors, whose­and started voices long-dis­tanceare over­laid like datin­gan echo whenon Skype.she re­turned to China Each­for work per­formerin 2011. was For given Sean, per­mis­sionit hasn’t beento em­bel­lis­han easy ex­pe­ri­ence.on the script, leav­ing the au­di­ence to de­cide “Per­son­ally,where theI truth wouldn’t was. rec­om­mend “Trust is theit. mostIt’s im­por­tant pretty tough,” thing,”he said. said “If Sean, you a do Chi­nese it, you have man­age­mentto know con­sul­tantwhy you fro­mare Changchun­do­ing it. whoFor work­sus, it’sin Lon­don. be­cause we are try­ing to start “You our trust own her ca­reers.”to not do the things Sean you and imag­ine,his girl­friendyou trust her broketo tellup tem­po­rar­ily,you what she’s and feel­ing he said emo­tion­ally,so­cial me­dia and had you a do lot the to same,”do with Sean,it. While­who did they not were want in his reg­u­lar­last name touch used,on the told mes­sag­ingChina Daily. app WeChat, the frus­tra­tion Sean’sof watch­ing girl­friend each lives nearly other play 8,500 out their kilo­me­ters in­di­vid­ual away livesin Bei­ photo They posts­got to­gether be­came while too study­ing­much. in Bris­tol in 2009 and started “(So­cial long-dis­tance­me­dia) is what dat­ing prob­a­bly when messed­she re­turned things to up Chi­nathe first­for work time,” in Sean 2011. For said. Sean, “Ob­vi­ously,it hasn’t been easy Is ex­pe­ri­ence.she go­ing to­goout with “Per­son­ally, some­oneI wouldn’telse? She’s rec­om­mend hav­ing a re­al­lyit. It’s nice pretty time, tough,”and I’mhe said.just here“If youin mydo it, of­fice you fac­ing­have to a know com­puter why for you 10 are hours doinga day.”it. For us, “Bothit’s be­causeof us we still are use try­ing so­cialto start our own ca­reers.”

Sean and his girl­friend broke up tem­po­rar­ily, and he said so­cial me­dia had a lot to do me­dia, with bu­tit. Whilenow we they don’t were postin reg­u­lar any­thing. touch We on just the feel mes­sag­ing­like it app cre­ates WeChat,too muchthe frus­tra­tion mis­un­der­standin­gof watch­ing ea­chor mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion.”other play out their in­di­vid­ual lives in photo posts Zhu, be­camethe Lon­don-based­too much. artist, “(So­cial­said of me­dia)her long-dis­tan­ceis what prob­a­bly re­la­tion­ship:messed things “When up we the would­first time,”meet Seanin per­son­said. “Ob­vi­ously,it was re­al­lyyou worry.weird, be­causeIs she go­inghe look­sto go dif­fer­entout with in some­one re­al­ity. else? It’s She’s like hav­ing when a ac­tors re­ally nev­er­nice time,look the and sameI’m just on here screen in as my in of­fice per­son. fac­ing Therea com­put­eris a sort of for dig­i­tal10 hours iden­titya day.” and a real-life “Both iden­tity.”of us still use so­cial me­dia,The sub­jects­but now of we the don’t art post dis­play any­thing. “cameWe just from feel like dif­fer­en­tit cre­ates back­grounds.too much (But) mis­un­der­stand­ingI was re­ally in­ter­este­dor mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion.”in the sim­i­lar­i­ties in Zhu, ex­pe­ri­ences,the Lon­don-based­when artist, they said were of talk­ingher long-dis­tance­about their frus­tra­tionre­la­tion­ship: with “When tech­nol­o­gywe would meet and in the per­son chal­lengeit was to re­ally truly weird, trust be­cause some­one he when looks you dif­fer­ent­don’t evenin re­al­ity.share the It’s same­like when time ac­tors zone,” never she added.look the “You same don’t on know screen whatas in per­son.that per­son There ha­sis a sort ex­pe­ri­enced.of dig­i­tal iden­ti­tyIt’s just and baseda real-lifeon what iden­tity.”he or she The tells sub­ject­syou.” of the art dis­play One “came com­mon from frus­tra­tion­dif­fer­ent back­grounds.was what she (But) calledI was the re­ally “mis­match point” on a com­puter screen: the im­pos­si­bil­ity of si­mul­ta­ne­ously look­ing at the cam­era and your part­ner’s in­ter­est­edeyes. in the sim­i­lar­i­ties in ex­pe­ri­ences,One in­ter­vie­wee­when they dis­liked were talk­ingthis phe­nomenon­about their frus­tra­tionso much with­that tech­nol­o­gyshe and her and boyfriendthe chal­lenge now justto truly write trust let­ters some­oneto each when other. you don’t even share the sameIn re­search­ing­time zone,” her she project, added. “YouZhu don’t said, know­she learned­what that that per­son while has there ex­pe­ri­ no ruleIt’s jus­tor based “uni­ver­sa­lon what un­der­stand­ing”he or she tells you.”on how to make a long-dis­tance One re­la­tion­ship­com­mon frus­tra­tionwork, wasthe what abil­ity she to called en­dure the sepa­ra­tion “mis­match point” greatly on de­pendsa com­puter on screen:an in­di­vid­ual’s the im­pos­si­bil­ity lev­elof si­mul­ta­ne­ous­lyof per­sonal look­ing the cam­era and your part­ner’s“If you eyes.are happy by your­self and One you in­ter­vie­wee­don’t rely dis­like­don the re­la­tion­ship this phe­nom­e­non with so the much other that per­son she andto make­her boyfriendyou happy, now then­just writeyou let­ter­swill be to able each to other. make the re­la­tion­ship In re­search­ing­work.” her project, Zhu For said, Sean, she it learned­was about that do­ing while thereit for theis no right rule rea­son­sor “uni­ver­sal— and un­der­stand­ing”about grow­ing up. on how to make“In a five long-dis­tanceyears, both re­la­tion­shipof us grew work,up a the lot. abil­i­tyWe thinkto en­dure­about sep­a­ra­tionlove in a dif­fer­ent greatly way. de­pendsI don’t on an think in­di­vid­ual’sabout not happiness. want­ing to lose “If her, you I are want happy her byto be your­selfhappy. and Also,you don’tif we bro­kerely on up the again, re­la­tion­ship I’d be more with OK the with other it. per­son­Last to time makeit you was happy,the thenend youof willthe be world able — to makenow I the know re­la­tion­shipit’s not work.” any­more.”

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