Wrist-bound Guanxi, Jiazu, and Kuolie: Unpacking Chinese Adolescent Smartwatch-Mediated Socialization

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Adolescent peer relationships, essential for their development, are increasingly mediated by digital technologies. As this trend continues, wearable devices, especially smartwatches tailored for adolescents, is reshaping their socialization. In China, smartwatches like XTC have gained wide popularity, introducing unique features such as “Bump-to-Connect” and exclusive social platforms. Nonetheless, how these devices infuence adolescents’ peer experience remains unknown. Addressing this, we interviewed 18 Chinese adolescents (age: 11—16), discovering a smartwatch-mediated social ecosystem. Our fndings highlight the ice-breaking role of smartwatches in friendship initiation and their use for secret messaging with local peers. Within the online smartwatch community, peer status is determined by likes and visibility, leading to diverse pursuit activities (i.e., chu guanxi, jiazu, kuolie) and negative social dynamics. We discuss the core afordances of smartwatches and Chinese cultural factors that infuence adolescent social behavior, and ofer implications for designing future wearables that responsibly and safely support adolescent socialization.