Chinese Urban Dictionary: Cunzaigan

By Mia Li, October 12, 2017

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Cunzaigan/ Cúnzàigǎn / 存在感 n. the feeling that others acknowledge that you exist; the sense that you are not ignored by others in a society; a validation of your existence.

A. Oh my god, Lily put naked photos of herself on WeChat Moments again.

B. She would do anything for cunzaigan.

A. I don't understand. Where is the fun in having a bunch of horny dogs follow you all day?

B. She is a cunzaigan addict.

Humans are not born equal. Some are the center of attention wherever they go. People greet them whenever they walk into a room. People ask them what is wrong when they are silent.

But there are also those of us who are never noticed. When we get left behind by our group, no one notices. At restaurants, all the dishes are ordered without anyone asking us what we’d like. At the dinner table, we try to make conversation but no one listens.

No one is rude to us, but being routinely ignored is almost worse than being treated badly – it makes us feel as if we don’t exist.

Turns out being ‘invisible’ is one of the worst feelings, if not the worst. Sociologists now say that the lack of cunzaigan, a sense of existence, is at the root of many of our bizarre behaviors – we start fights, do provocative things, tell lies or just behave badly in general, because we want to get noticed and milk some cuinzaigan out of the oblivious people around us.

Cunzaigan makes us feel validated, alive and less alone – and we will do anything to get it. We will tell others embarrassing tales about ourselves if it means we can get their sympathy. We expose our vulnerabilities to get pity. We go on talkshows and air our dirty laundry on TV just to garner shocked reactions. Cunzaigan is the ultimate drug.

The age of social media doesn’t make getting cunzaigan any easier. Since our attention is constantly being pulled in different directions by 300 cat gifs at any given moment, we have to constantly up the ante if we want cunzaigan. Photos of Instagram-worthy lunches are not enough anymore. We need nudity, obscenity and ever-more shocking images to get hits and likes.

And that cunzaigan, when we get it, is fleeting. You can get 10,000 likes within the hour, but minutes later, your followers’ attention is onto to the next shocking thing (or cat gif).

The thing is, cunzaigan is not something we can generate ourselves. We have to rely on others to get it. So if you’re are hooked on cunzaigan, it’s best to wean yourself off – because life is too short to put your happiness in someone else's hands.

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