There is a new craze among young people—flocking to so-called kuakuaqun, or flattery groups, on the Internet, where they praise one another, at times even paying to be exaggeratedly complimented.
This is mainly happening on WeChat, China's largest messaging app. Some flattery groups are free, like those set up by university students. But users can also search for commercial flattery groups on e-commerce platforms like Taobao. Once you join any of these groups, you will be showered with praise on your topic of choice, like academic achievements, your appearance or even your characteristics.
Defenders of the flattery groups say they help young people to release the high pressure from their studies and daily life. Besides, everyone needs encouragement in the process of growing up. Compliments will strengthen their self-confidence and push them forward, although they know the flattery is fake.
But some critics find such groups ridiculous. They say the obsession for compliments, even though they are fake, will distract young people from the efforts they should make instead to make their real life better.
A pressure-reducing outlet
Mao Jianguo (www.gmw.cn): Those who seemingly look for praise may not necessarily be seeking actual praise while those who extol others may not be really praising others. A lot of people join these groups for plain fun. Some students go to such WeChat groups when they feel tired of reading their textbooks and want a short break. Some flattering comments are very innovative and fresh, and make them happy and relaxed.
Some people do need praise. In kindergartens and primary schools, students win little stars or flowers, a form of praise for doing something good, but in college, encouragement or praise is rare.
The eagerness for praise stems from pressures after entering college. Difficulties in studies and life, or even incidents or accidents, can all add to the pressure. Some people say that students' pursuit for praise implies a lack of encouragement in their real life. The flattery group is thus an outlet for them to express their feelings and release the pressure or emotions. Their psychological need must be paid attention to.
As a matter of fact, people other than college students also need this or other ways to let off steam. People who work full-time are also struggling with all kinds of pressures. Some companies believe in wielding the stick while withholding the carrot. Even though people can tell others what's bothering them, through their WeChat moments online and even in real life, it is often difficult to get someone who will have an encouraging response to their feelings or anxieties. In an environment full of pressure, everyone needs encouragement. The flattery groups cater to this demand.
On one hand, young people should learn to balance their emotions and try to face difficulties with equanimity; on the other hand, society should also realize that the young generation is living under immense pressure and there is a need for ways to defuse this. The truth is, it is not only children who need praise and encouragement, college students and even older people who are working need praise as well. In this sense, the WeChat flattery groups' existence can be justified to an extent.
Feng Qingyang (www.sohu.com): The emergence of the WeChat flattery groups among college students is no happenstance. These young students are struggling under huge pressures of academic work and job hunts. Some even face the tragedy of breaking off with their boyfriends or girlfriends due to difficulties. When there is little pleasure in real life, some students begin to seek psychological comfort in flattery groups. It eases anxieties and the specter of more fierce competition after graduating from college.
In these flattery groups, people don't need to worry about whether they'll leave a negative impression or be seen as complaining. To some extent, the flattery groups sweeping campuses countrywide is a kind of anti-pressure valve system created by young people who need encouragement and positive feedback from others.
Students are seeking praise in flattery groups because they lack compliments in their real life. Some need comfort after failing exams or being pulled up for being late for class, some come to the groups for fun.
It is unexpected to see flattering or praise singing turned into a business charging fees per minute. There are even standard models for praising. At a first glance, it's ridiculous, but on a second thought, probably it's not as disgusting as some think. It's just that the young need comforting and such flattery groups provide a place where they can find it.
Generally speaking, most Chinese grow up in a milieu stingy with praise. Parents and schools alike like to push students, neglecting the importance of praise and encouragement. Most of them grow up in the shade of those regarded as their superiors and are hungry for praise, which would feed their ego and make them think their existence is meaningful. Young people are, in a sense, helping one each another by praising one another.
Keep a clear head
Jia Liang (Beijing Evening News): Even within these groups, you have people pointing out that the praise being lavished is fake. The people in these groups don't know one another but even so, flatter one another. This kind of unprincipled compliment is obviously fake. College students are not dummies; so why do they keep asking for praise from strangers even though they know it's fake?
Those critical of the flattery groups say these are platforms where dull young people play mindless games to exhaust their surplus energy. Some are worried that this atmosphere of fake flattery is corrupting the young. They are sad that young people are deceiving themselves and cherishing misguided values.
All such concern is farfetched. Actually, the students know the nature of these flattery groups and they also know how genuine these compliments are. They seldom believe these flattering comments. Do not underestimate the young generation's power of judgment, and do not hurt them by attacking their games.
The WeChat flattery groups are misunderstood due to disrespect for young people's feelings and ignorance of their psychology. The young are eager for praise and encouragement. Even children do not grow up in an environment free of worries and difficulties. Once they enter school, even kindergarten, they face competition from other children. After rounds of competition, they enter college to find that the pressure is mounting instead of ebbing. They need some way to release this pressure. Praise helps them to relax and so flattery groups have their merit.
To some extent, the WeChat flattery group is a platform jointly constructed by the young to help each other psychologically, provide social integration and help them win admiration. The original aim behind forming such groups was to have fun and share joy. The administrators of some of these groups claim that they set these up with young people's mental health in their mind, hoping they would let their hair down in the group.
However, some psychologists say that although flattery groups offer young people mental satisfaction, it's better for them to choose healthier ways to release their pressures because ultimately, they'll find that the flattering comments in the groups never help to solve any real problem. Instead, these fake plaudits may actually distract them from looking for real ways to let off pressure.
Yuan Guangkuo (Yanzhao Metropolis Daily): Some people think flattery groups are ridiculous, especially the ones where you have to pay for praise, although they can provide some kind of satisfaction.
Although these groups have been formed for the purpose of flattering and give you fake compliments, you have to admit that most people feel satisfied and enjoy these compliments. They find their ego is boosted and that can even strengthen their confidence in themselves. Some people say flattery groups help to drive away the frustration and misery caused by setbacks in their studies or love affairs. They attribute their recovery to the flood of praise coming from these groups.
Whether the compliments are true or false, they don't harm the giver or the receiver. Praising others doesn't mean violating laws or regulations, and so the groups should be tolerated. If you think flattery groups are disgusting, you can choose not to join such groups.
As a means of entertainment, WeChat flattery groups are not bad. The problem is that the praises sound similar and are limited in repertoire. Therefore people are bound to get tired of these fake compliments eventually. So young people need to learn to balance their emotions themselves, instead of relying on flattery groups. They can seek comfort from sports, reading, music and other healthy and real ways. The flattery groups, at most, can be a supplementary way.
Copyedited by Sudeshna Sarkar
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