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Keeping up appearances online proves tough job

By Chen Chenchen (Global Times)

13:39, June 16, 2012

A recent survey by US advertising agency JWT found that Chinese youths are exhausted keeping up their obligations on social networking services (SNS). SNS websites, designed to ease one's nerves after a long day's work, have now become a burden for young Chinese.

According to the survey, nearly two thirds of respondents said they felt pressure to maintain constant contact with SNS sites such as Qzone, Weibo and Renren. About 58 percent characterized their online commitments as "stressful", while over 50 percent believed this pressure increased from just one year ago.

The survey results reminded me of my own friends. True, China is one of the most robust markets for SNS. Almost all of my friends have some kind of networking account. Most of them regularly log on one of their favorites and gradually turn a cold shoulder to others, while some keep updating all of them, all the time.

In a certain sense, SNS sites provide an opportunity to redefine oneself. For someone who regularly logs to read more than post, I often find myself browsing facades of people that I would barely recognize in reality. It just seems that everyone has a perfect life, online.

For instance, a quiet boy who used to sit in the back of my classroom in middle school now has a very beautiful wife. Every perfect detail of their happy marriage is evident online; daily posts about them decorating their house, and the white car they own, as well as their romantic sojourn in an ancient city in Yunnan Province, trips to the mysterious temples in Lhasa and getaways to the tropical island of Bali.

He is definitely not alone. Another friend once confided in me of her SNS-phobia, admitting every time she logged on these sites she would be ambushed by throngs of former classmates or colleagues touting all kinds of life achievements.

Several years ago, the trend was posting all the alluring job offers classmates had won through brutal competition. Then it was the collective wave of wedding photos - every one seemed to have a partner, while my friend only a computer screen.

Now the latest wave is baby photos, the precious only child of those happy couples, crying, laughing, sleeping or playing with toys.

The Chinese are well-known for their habit of showing off, and this seems to have found a new outlet on SNS sites. Many people I know behave online in the same way they do in real life. Those who are argumentative get involved in so many debates online, and those who'd like to complain in real life keep posting on Weibo about all the "gloomy" experiences they have every day.

But once you start to build an ideal self on SNS, you may become addicted and find yourself unable to quit the endless task of maintaining it, even if you're tired.

In a nation where peer pressure is already intense, browsing online and being involved by all kinds of "perfect lives" may stir up very complex feelings.

Now we see that those who keep updating such information also find it a chore. This might be comforting to my SNS-phobic friend. But when can we Chinese just take it easy and give ourselves a break?

Email|Print|Comments(Editor:梁军、张洪宇)

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