Elderly Graphics

Most of you would be aware that in the world of texting, different generations have different habits. Older generations tend to write complete sentences (with conscious effort on making sure the grammar and punctuation are correct) while younger ones tend to be brief and lax about accuracy. Among the younger generations, we can even make distinctions by the Internet slang and shorthands they use.

In Hong Kong, there is a texting phenomenon called ‘elderly graphics’ (長輩圖). Their appearance is particularly frequent during festivals such as the Mid-autumn Festival, also known as the Mooncake Festival, that has just passed. Here’s an example:

MID-AUTUMN. All the best for everything, as complete as the full moon. Wish a happy Mid-autumn Festival, and that you get whatever you wish for!’ – received on Whatsapp
They aren’t necessarily related to festivals, but most contain words of blessings, like this one:

‘Weather is changing; care isn’t. Climate is changing; blessing isn’t. Long lives friendship. GOOD MORNING.‘ – received on Whatsapp
Correct me if I’m wrong, but this looks like a Chinese phenomenon and I haven’t seen, and can’t find, a western parallel.

While the use of such graphics is customary among the elderly when they text each other, younger generations usually find these pictures meaningless and annoying – when your aunt sends such a picture every morning. These pictures are often sent out of context (and in this sense the festival ones are better-received already) and you aren’t sure what to respond, except with an emoticon.

Typical elderly graphics consist of a flowery background (prototypically lotus flowers) – sometimes it can also be a buddha or any similar icons – and colourful words of WordArt style. Content is either blessing or proverbial teaching, ending with ‘Share if you agree’.

Netizens are quick to produce parody versions that contain nonsense or hilarious messages.

‘Happy Chung Yeung Festival! May your family be safe. Do you know? When it rains, the ground gets wet. Share if you agree. Sharing is good.’ – 潮文匯報

‘Dear friends, may I ask when you will pay me back? Paying off your debt makes you spiritually rich.’ – 長輩圖救香港

Some even spread political messages using the style of elderly graphics:

‘Friends, this is the last attempt to peacefully change the Legislative Council. Please vote tomorrow. Share if you agree.’ – 香港長輩圖協會 Hong Kong Elderly Graphics Association

The main difference between the authentic elderly graphics and the parody ones – besides the difference in content – is the media of sharing. The authentic ones are shared via texting apps like Whatsapp for individual friends or friend groups, and that’s why I can’t indicate the source of the first two pictures. As for the parody ones, they are usually shared on social networking sites like Facebook, where the younger generations are active, for public display, for people to have a good laugh.


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