Chinese Urban Dictionary: Jianpanxia

By Mia Li, July 19, 2017

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Jianpanxia / jìanpánxiá / 键盘侠 n. those who think they are getting justice served by commenting on social media

A. That school of migrant workers’ children is closing down due to lack to funding.

B. But my timeline is flooded with hundreds of people calling it a grave injustice.

A. Yeah but they are all jianpanxia and will never do anything in real life to help the school.

B. All that indignation for nothing.

The world is an unequal place filled with injustices. Kids get bullied in schools and abused at home; workers get exploited in factories and office buildings. We all want to help, but the cost of helping is high, especially in China. The bullies might turn on you when you try to stop them; corporations might fire you or sue you if you speak out. Or maybe there are no consequences, but you simply don’t want to exert any effort. Is there an option where even the laziest, most selfish, timid and cowardly people can feel like they are getting justice served?

Yes, there is. It’s called being a jianpanxia, or a ‘keyboard hero,’ someone who types furiously on a laptop and posts comments on social media like: “Shame on fast fashion brands that exploit underage workers!” and “More must be done to make education more affordable!” and “Sharing is caring!”

They do so till their fingers hurt from all the noble and righteous typing and clicking. They go to bed knowing that justice was served for another day, only to realize the next day that little has changed, thus prompting more furious commenting and sharing the following night. Such is the perpetual cycle of a jianpanxia’s life.

Their fingers get such a workout online that they can’t even lift one of them to help the neighbor’s kids with their homework, or dial the phone to call the local police to fix a traffic light. Yet they consider themselves heroes for their heightened sense of justice.

The most remarkable thing about jianpanxia is that they seem to have two personalities, depending on whether they are with or without a keyboard. With a keyboard, they are capable of crusading with strong language and an impressive amount of bravado. Take their keyboard away, and they immediately become quiet and obedient. This leads to only one logical conclusion: that the source of their superpowers must be the keyboard, hence the name.

They work tirelessly to fill your Facebook and WeChat feeds. They are quick to point out others’ mistakes in comments, although they don’t support any causes in real life. They can bully someone online mercilessly while hiding behind their anonymity. They may never be the center of attention in real life, but once behind a keyboard, they can become all-powerful, almighty jianpanxia.


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