Why Are People Joining 'Praise Groups' on Chinese Social Media?

By Rakini Bergundy, March 21, 2019

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Everybody needs a pick-me-up from time to time.

Now, if you’re feeling down, you can actually purchase such a service on Taobao. Kuakua qun, known as ‘praise groups’ are being sold online for as low as RMB8 per five minutes. The group serves as a safe place where you can air your grievances and insecurities, and in return, random people will complement you in attempts to make you feel better about yourself. Prices for the service go as high as RMB520 for ‘specialty praising.’

You got to pay to be praised. Image via Taobao

The concept is said to date back several years, starting within online student communities at Xi’an Jiaotong University and Shanghai Fudan University, according to What’s on Weibo. This phenomenon has become much more mainstream in recent years, with some people monetizing off subscribers who are looking for a little love.

People who paid for this trending service have provided extremely positive feedback for the most part, with one Taobao user on March 19 commenting, “[The service] is very good and satisfying, It’s really like a breath of fresh air hahaha. The group manager has a great attitude and can really give a detailed explanation of one’s request. I’ll come back for another time.” A CNBC reporter, who recently moved to Guangzhou, also joined in on the fun, according to CNBC. The journalist purchased a round of compliments online and was then invited to join a WeChat group where other users were waiting with glowing tributes at the ready. 

Sixth Tone reported that these groups are a place for people to show kindess and support each other, especially within school communities. Chen Kan, an associate professor in Fudan University’s psychology department, told Sixth Tone that these ‘praise groups’ “meet a lot of psychological needs” for students who feel lonely or lack self-confidence. 

This popular form of online interaction also has a dark side. Duima qun, roughly translated to ‘insult group,’ saw a rise in popularity last year as WeChat users joined various groups to vent or blow off some steam by saying whatever they want to strangers, all behind the comfort of their phone.

Beijing News revealed a plethora of ‘insult groups’ debating matters such as KFC vs. McDonalds, North Chinese vs. South Chinese, football vs. basketball, durian lovers vs. non-durian lovers, old school hip hop vs. trap music, etc.

It looks like the emergence of ‘praise groups’ might also resurrect these ‘insult groups’ after running out of steam near the end of 2018. One Weibo user on Sunday posted, “Suddenly there are so many praise groups. Are there any insult groups… take me in, thanks.” Another user seemingly perplexed by the current state of social media wrote, “Last year it was ‘insult groups,’ this year it’s ‘praise groups.’ This is just an affection-less, joking society.”

[Cover image via @贾敬花/Weibo]

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