To blog or not to blog Is that a question for you?
Despite a huge influx of participants, the blogosphere in China is experiencing a small "counter-current" of quitters, spearheaded by celebrity bloggers.
In early March, Bai Ye, a renowned literary critic, closed his blog on Sina.com.cn after days of blog-to-blog argument with a lionized young writer.
"I don't know how to react to unseemly and irrational words from the writer and his idolaters," Bai wrote in his last entry on March 5.
The spat was kindled by one of his logs that lambasted the "post-1980 generation" of young writers and their works. Han Han, one of those writers, responded with a diatribe.
Han fired back in his blog that Bai had "no ingenuity or talent" and was "a pedantic diehard." Touting his own stories as "rare literature in China," the writer in his 20s used vulgarities in his log, which sparked another round of "blog quarrel" between the two.
Then came the end of Bai's blog.
Within a month, a similar incident happened between Han and Gao Xiaosong, a famous music producer. The two "spat" at each other for several days, starting with "Han's humiliating log against my friend Lu Chuan the director known for his film 'Mountain Patrol (Ke Ke Xi Li)'," said Gao, who later blogged that he would sue Han for illegally borrowing his lyrics in a book.
About five days later, after more heated exchanges, Gao also closed his blog.
"It was not because of him (Han Han) or the bickering that I shut my blog," Gao told China Daily in a phone interview.
He said it was mainly because he could not get accustomed to the blogosphere, which he called "dirty and foolish."
"It seems that anyone can utter any curse in the guise of anonymity on the Internet," Gao said. "It is especially unfair for us, since our blogs are real-name but most of our blog viewers leave unfriendly comments without a name."
Calling the Internet an "uncivilized place," the music producer said he hated to "re-evolve online as a civilized man."
Like Gao and Bai, a number of celebrities, including crosstalk star Guo Degang, closed their blogs in the past two months, either in response to harsh comments from netizens or as a result of increasing intentional misconceptions.
But the story is a bit different with ordinary bloggers. While the total number in China is approaching 15.2 million this year, and one prediction for next year is 28.6 million, according to the Sanlian Life Week, one of the most famous magazines based in Beijing, a slew of bloggers are also quitting.
"It is a waste of time," said Shu Ruyue, an ex-blogger on MSN Space whose blog lasted nine months till March this year.
"It is not that you spend how much time on writing, but how much time you would while away with others. If you find nothing new in your interest or there is no update at all, you feel disappointed."
Jin Jianbin, associate professor at the School of Journalism and Communication of Tsinghua University, says most bloggers devote too much time to updating their blogs and thus become "blog-addicted."
"They spend a lot of time opening their own blogs to view comments and the click-through rate," Jin said. "And to win more comments and clicks in return, they squander more time collecting stories and attractive information to embellish their blogs."
Jin says there has always been a waste of resources on the Internet. A recent survey conducted by the Internet Society of China indicates that each article online is reprinted four times on average, which means that the Internet is creating more trash information and that blogging is escalating it.
"The study shows that blogging expands the spread of online activities, which directly leads to a longer hook onto the Internet," Jin said.
The inevitable result is more isolation from people in personal settings and from outdoor activities.
Another reason Shu shut her blog, she said, was the difficulty to strike a balance between writing whatever she wants and writing something "that won't be too offensive to those who have access to my space," she said.
Those who are still blogging understand her headache.
Some bloggers expose the privacy of their friends in the logs, resulting in friendship ruptures; some bloggers cast offensive words onto others wilfully; and some find their logs are plagiarized by blog service providers for other use.
Last November, an associate professor at Nanjing University, found himself under attack in a blog on Blogcn (www.blogcn.com), the largest blogosphere in China. He asked the website to edit the log but was refused. The enraged professor then sued the website. The case has not yet been resolved.
A court case, which is scheduled on Thursday, will address for the first time in China the issue of blog copyright. Qin Tao, a Shanghai-based blogger, sued Sohu, one of China's portal websites, for its unauthorized reprint of her logs. Her action was soon echoed by three other bloggers, claiming copyright infringement.
Jin attributed the problems to the peculiar nature of blogs and the lack of a related law.
"Different from a BBS (bulletin board system), which is organized around topics, blogs are something egocentric," said Jin, who has been researching blogs almost since they started. "Therefore, any negative message from a blog will be more likely considered a flagrant provocation mixed with strong personal dislikes."
So, when someone finds bad words in a blog, he or she will be more inclined to take it seriously, Jin said.
Also, challenging the bottom line of free expression, blogs in China are growing so fast that the laws cannot keep up.
"There is a convention of self-discipline about online activities, but the details are being revised along with the emergence of new problems," Jin said.
"Lawmakers must set down some important definitions, including the responsibilities of bloggers and blog service providers."
Jin concluded that an online insult is as unforgivable as one in real life, and "no one should be allowed to cross the line."