Chinese Internet Users Just Like US

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It seems that on its long march to overtake all things American, China has passed another landmark. America’s once-great leadership in online viral marketing is deteriorating. Lonelygirl15, meet Xiao Yue Yue.[more]

A few weeks ago, a Chinese user on a Tianya online forum posted the following message: “I thank this stupendous friend for bringing me such a dismal National Day.” The poster, screen-named Rong Rong, went on to spin a tale about this “stupendous friend” (a young woman named Xiao Yue Yue) that devolved into a preposterous drama of crass insults about the woman’s overweight body and outlandish behavior.

The story became increasingly preposterous over the next few days. Supposedly, she had embarrassed herself throwing panties in a store, got naked in public, screamed loudly about condoms, and even fell in her own poop. The story, naturally, racked up millions of pageviews in a few short days.

How shocking, then, that whole thing turned out to be a hoax dreamed up by the online site itself as a tactic to boost traffic just prior to its initial public offering. Tianya is one of the top 20 sites visited in all of China. Adding an even more bizarre element to the take, the writer of the Xiao Yue Yue tale was revealed to be a young woman: a demure, thin, writing student at a Shanghai university.

This reveal and reversal of expectations was all, apparently, part of Tianya’s plan as well to keep the pageviews rolling in. Gawker Media overlord Nick Denton, we suspect, is watching this with envy.

What’s fascinating is that the way the Internet is used in China is developing in so many of the same ways it is in the United States, despite developing almost independently. Fleeting fame for random individuals sweeps the nation, only to be wiped away by the next fascination. In America, it’s David going to the dentist. In China, “Sister Feng.

Human psychology and online rubbernecking — no translation needed.

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