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Compliments, not trolling! Chinese students seek consolation in online "flattery groups"

(Xinhua)    16:25, March 18, 2019

BEIJING, March 18 (Xinhua) -- At a time when Internet trolling is increasingly common, compliment-themed chat groups have been taking hold in Chinese universities, offering consolation and fun.

It was 2 p.m. and Yang Haiqi received a message on her cellphone. "Just got up, good morning everyone!"

Seconds later, Yang, a freshman in China's top school Tsinghua University, responded in the group chat: "You must care about your health very much as you sleep for so long, praise you!"

More of such compliments followed.

Often dubbed "flattery groups," or Kuakuaqun in Chinese, such online chatrooms have become a place for students to give compliments, look on the bright side of life and spread positivity.

On microblogging site Weibo, hashtags related to such groups, which often show screenshots of creative compliments, have been viewed more than 30 million times.

Almost anyone can fish for compliments in these groups, and young participants often feel encouraged, supported or entertained by the playful and witty comments.

In a chat group set up by students in Tongji University in Shanghai, the number of participants rocketed from 200 to 500 in less than 10 hours. The conversation kept going for a whole day.

"I cannot handle computer science!" read one message.

"Your heart is too pure to hold any complex algorithms," was the kind response.

Personal feelings are covered too: "I feel inferior seeing so many beautiful boys and girls on the subway."

"You have eyes for beauty and a beautiful heart too."

Yang said the chats reflected people's anxiety and provided a sort of psychological support.

Others are just happy that people are being positive online. "It is a strong contrast with online trolling, which is rampant in these days," Zhang Hehe, a sophomore in Renmin University of China, told Xinhua.

On March 9, Zhang set up his first such group after seeing a trending Weibo post with screenshots of eye-catching compliments on an online social network.

In less than 24 hours, Zhang's first group reached its 500-people limit, and he set up another one. In less than 72 hours, he had established four.

"I think this [the rapid growth of members] really shows there's a demand for living positively," Zhang said. "But it is often left unmet."

Though the compliments given in the group can sometimes be exaggerated and insincere, Zhang thinks they are generally aimed at being "fun," which is why they have attracted so many young people.

At one point, someone even wrote a poem praising someone who had been out on a wild-night drinking in a club and had smelly hair.

"The compliments get very creative," Zhang said. "They add color to mundane life."

A few days ago, Yang, the Tsinghua student, left all the groups.

"Too much exaggeration," she said, adding that several of her friends had also quit. In those groups that Zhang created, people now talk less.

However, as people leave, new members join. The Tongji University group still has 500 members.

Zhang thinks the high churn is normal as many people join the groups out of curiosity and when the novelty wanes they leave.

"Some haven't even sent a message since they have joined," he said.

However, Zhang is still optimistic about the groups.

"People need praise," Zhang said, adding that he sees a cycle where someone good at giving compliments gets more praise from others and then wants to praise others more.

"I wouldn't want to see that disappear," Zhang said. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Xian Jiangnan, Hongyu)

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