If you feel weak or sad for any reason, you may want to invest a small amount so that complete strangers adulate you for a few minutes and make you feel better. That is the idea of the 'kua kua' groups, an authentic fashion throughout China.
Born as communities in which the university raised their spirits to each other under the pressure of studies and a limited social activity, the forums 'kua kua' ('kua' means to praise or praise in Chinese) eventually spread throughout the country after the idea triumphed in social networks.
Efe managed to gain access to one of them, made up of some 500 students from the Jiaotong University of Xi'an - in which, according to local media, these groups originated - and wrote a message that not a few could identify with: "Hello, I find many problems when I try to do my job and that makes me sad.
In the following minutes, several users responded with praise and encouragement: "That means that you work with your heart and not in a superficial way", "Fortune and misfortune depend on each other. that happiness is closer "or" You face a lot of pressure but you do it with courage, your attitude is positive, I like it! "
However, not all groups are altruistic, and popular e-commerce platforms such as Taobao have proliferated stores where those who need it can resort to renting a few "professional sycophants" for a few minutes.
Xiao Ruichen is 27 years old and manages a 'kua kua' and a shop in Taobao where he sells accesses. "I heard about Weibo (Chinese Twitter) in mid-March, it was very popular, so I decided to make one of my own, life is getting faster and people are on the verge of anxiety, anguish and depression," he explains. to Efe.
"This service is very popular, and after the experience, everyone can free themselves and relieve their pressure, which makes me feel happy," he says.
Xiao charges 38 yuan (5.7 dollars, 5 euros) for five minutes and 68 (10.1 dollars, 9 euros) for ten; After that time, the client is expelled.
Although he prefers not to disclose how much money he earns each month, he does reveal that about 35% of his income goes to the rest of the members of the clique, more than a hundred university students who he selects under "strict" criteria such as speed of writing or the ability to entertain their clients.
According to figures offered by official media, the largest seller of access to 'kua kua' groups in Taobao could have billed more than 83,000 yuan (12,400 dollars, 10,900 euros) in February.
And the enthusiasm has been such that even national media have warned of the dangers of relying on these virtual communities: "Young people should choose other healthier ways to solve their problems when they feel under pressure," reads an article of opinion published by the state agency Xinhua.
In the same line, the psychologist Su Chao, of the Mingxin psychotherapy center, explains to Efe that resorting to the 'kua kua' groups "quickly improves" short-term self-esteem: "It is harmless for people, it is like playing or watching a movie, but for those who really need to de-stress and increase their self-esteem, it's a false promotion. "
"The long-term effect is that people with less mental maturity distort their own assessment of the world and themselves, thus reducing their ability to cope with environmental problems and increasing their vulnerability to setbacks and difficulties in life" , warns.
So why have these groups become so fashionable in China? His is clear: "Since childhood, the Chinese are in an environment where interactions are based much more on criticism than on praise, Chinese receive more criticism in childhood than Europeans or Americans."
"This lack of praise - judgment - leads to low self-esteem and a lower level of activity and social skills.China has a community culture that makes it the most fertile ground for 'kua kua' groups."