Once you arrive in China, or spend any significant time with Chinese people, you'll notice they use WeChat -- A LOT! One of the main features used in WeChat is voice messages instead of text. It may have something to do with the keyboard, and having to potentially type more for their characters. It is also much faster to communicate in Chinese verbally than over text.
What about English? In NA, I haven't observed many locals using voice messages for communicating. The first and obvious reason is those in NA may not want others hearing their conversations. True. I think there is a different reason though. After having been around the central area of TJ for several weeks, I've unconsciously observed many people, even young people, tend not to listen to the music with their headphones in -- or at all on their device. I see it on a few people, though I'd say less than 1-4%, at least in my area.
Not having headphones in for music playing contributes largely to why they are so open to using voice messages. The Chinese know they are already under massive surveillance, and with each person having seen it all, maybe they don't mind others hearing about their life?
By not having headphones in all the time, this allows them to send as many voice messages as they want without having their music fade in and out each time they read and reply to a message. This is coupled with how much more frequently the Chinese seem to message people. None, or at least significantly less, of these rules and messaging etiquette on waiting for someone to text you back, and all the stuff Aziz Anzari discusses in shows, seems to apply here. They'll get the hint and stop messaging you if you just stop responding at all for a long period of time, but if your in a conversation and stop responding for a few moments, people will actually text you "hello?! Are you still there?" And having only waited a few minutes! A really nice benefit of this is people tend to respond much quicker -- unlike in NA. It's ironic, people in NA are often on their phone but can also take a long time to respond.
Such rapid messaging also has a downside in that anywhere a person currently occupies they will respond! What do I mean? If you're walking down the stairs of a pedestrian overpass, and someone in front of you gets a message -- they stop dead in their tracks and respond immediately. In yoga classes, I swear a phone goes off at least once every 10 minutes, and people have no problem stopping mid-session to take a phone call or send a voice message while everyone else around continues changing poses (maddening)!
Oddly, and perhaps I just haven't observed close enough yet, but group chats seem to be all in text vs. voice message. Having said this, the major group messages I'm apart of (some of which have nearly 200 members for bars, gyms, classes etc.) are mostly with foreigners. The demographic change may be the cause of the preferred text messages over audio. Or, simply listening to audio from this many people would take a long time and people couldn't skim the conversation. Ie. I can finish a 1.5hour class, check my phone and have 100+ messages unread in a single convo!
I find these little subtleties fascinating! I have another post after this which covers a second one I've recently observed.