Online communities can bring people together or push them apart. For the creators of Tap Tip, a social media app, their goal was to bring Chinese international students together across various post-secondary institutions in British Columbia, including SFU, Fraser International College (FIC, which is housed on Burnaby Mountain), UBC, and the University of Victoria to name a few.
The Peak talked to Vincent Wen and Fred Wong, two out of 16 members of the Tap Tip administrative team who oversee the content that is posted on the app’s message boards. The app, which was released last December, focuses on two themes: Tap, which has posts about daily life, the community, and relationships; and Tip, which has posts about academic life and is generally “more impressive” according to Wen, a computer science student.
When asked how Tap Tip compares to Chitter, another anonymous confessions posting app for university students, Wong discussed how “Tap Tip focuses on very conservative, Chinese values” while “Chitter is very Western.”
Even though the app is focussed on Chinese international students, the content that is posted on the app gives insight on the struggles that all international students can identify with, such as the language barrier, making friends, and being able to keep up with grades. However, despite this seemingly harmless content, there are other facets of the app that showcase more controversial posts.
One of the biggest problems that administrators like Wen and Wong have seen on the app is the rise of advertisement-like content, such as the sale of assignments. When asked how Tap Tip administrators can mitigate the rise of this activity, Wen says that it is the individual’s responsibility to make sure that they are posting content that is positive.
“[This activity] is definitely unfair and illegal [. . .] we can delete this app but we can’t solve this problem. If they want to buy assignments they can go anywhere. It’s not our app’s problem, it’s the individual’s problem.”
Wen and Wong also discussed how while they personally do not condone this type of content, they opt instead to boost more positive and innocent posts so that they receive more attention, pushing posts like these advertisements out of view.
Despite the push of conservative ideals, Wen and Wong admit that there is some content that is less than conservative, especially by way of romance. Wen explained how some Asian students are introverted, and having an app like Tap Tip that is presented in their language enables them to communicate with others and ask questions regarding relationships. The anonymity of the app, Wen continues, enables users to be “honest.” But the creators agree some of the questions have been noted to be hypersexualized — something uncharacteristic of Chinese conservative values.
Regardless of the nature of the posts, Wen and Wong stress the fact that Tap Tip will not delete posts or ban users: “[Poor content] is unavoidable. We’ll only delete it if it is spam, but this kind of content is posted every day. It’s hard to control.”
As for whether or not they see the possibility of being shut down by administration, Wen and Wong do not see it to be an issue, as the app is meant to be a platform to “express one’s opinions.” But most importantly, Wen says that Tap Tip will hopefully help ease Chinese international students into their new environment.
“The school’s website is in English, and it [puts] tons of reading pressure for ESL students,” Wen said.
“With the daily life comments, students can see what the school is actually like before coming.”
A tool to help the transition for Chinese international students, Tap Tip has plans to continue expanding its app accessibility to other schools and hopes to install other subsequent features so as to give prospective students an opportunity to get a taste of what studying abroad is like before they arrive on campus.