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'Online angels' provide netizens advice, support

By Zheng Jinran (China Daily)

08:19, May 22, 2012

Chen Liang has never been comfortable around people. For years, he refused to talk to strangers and rarely interacted with his parents. He even moved to Slovakia for seven years so he could be alone.

Yet, in the end, it was a total stranger who changed his life.

"She listens to me patiently and talks to me in her gentle voice about inspiring stories and about her experiences," said the 31-year-old restaurant worker, who is a native of Wenzhou, in East China's Zhejiang province.

"You can feel that she really wants to help you. It pushed me to confront my phobia and get professional treatment."

Chen, who is now seeing a psychologist in Beijing, was talking about Gao Ye, one of China's many "online angels" who offer their spare time for a price to help Web users with problems, emotional or technical.

Virtual troubleshooters on Chinese online marketplace Taobao now offer more than 3,000 services, ranging from friendly chats to technical assistance, such as modifying pictures and Web design. Prices vary from 1 yuan to 600 yuan (16 US cents to $95).

Gao, 27, who has no qualifications in psychology, has been running her advice service since July. At first she would chat with clients on the Internet or over the phone in her spare time. At the beginning of this year, however, she quit her job as a team leader for a marketing company to devote more time to being an online angel.

"Although my marketing job earned me much more money, I'm happy and satisfied with my work now," she said. "I can help people out of their worries and give them courage. It's a wonderful life for me.

"Being an online angel is a simple job. More important is the effect it can bring to people. It's not a job I live on, but a chance to bring my dream alive."

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