Chinese actress and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Yao Chen shared how social media changed her life during the World Economic Forum on Sept 10 in Tianjin.
During a session titled An Insight, An Idea with Yao Chen, the "Queen of Weibo" surprised the audience by saying that aside from updating her Weibo account, she is not tech-savvy at all. She rarely opens her email account, doesn't do online shopping and lives a somewhat "ancient" life.
"All of a sudden, I met all these interesting people through the platform Weibo provided. Many worked in fields other than showbiz and their conversations truly opened up my horizon," said Yao.
With her rising number of followers (more than 73 million as of today), the actress felt the power and pressure from social media. Among the praises and criticisms, Yao learned to use the platform as a tool for philanthropy.
"Gradually, I discovered that Weibo, as minute as it may be, can gather strength when joined with others. On it, I can spread information, such as those on rescue teams after the quake at first instance. I also once reposted a thread to help others sell potatoes."
Yao said she learned to filter out information over the years. Now, she only reposts threads from reliable sources and chooses to help those in need of immediate help.
In June 2010, Yao Chen became the first Chinese honorary patron to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and became a spokeswoman for the organisation.
Three years later, she was named UNHCR's Goodwill Ambassador.
"I was visiting one of the refugees. He is an agriculturalist, a Somali, and was sent to the Philippines to study by the Somali government. He could have returned to his homeland after graduation with a post in the government. But, during his studies, coup d'etat in his country snatched that thought from him. He stayed in the Philippines. This is his 24th year."
"He never applied for citizenship in the Philippines. I asked why, and his answer struck me deeply. He said, 'I always feel like I might be able to go home today, or even tomorrow.'"