"It's 10 p.m. and I am the only person in the office, need some praise!" wrote a netizen working a lonely overtime shift to a WeChat group.
"You are so hardworking, you'll definitely get a promotion. Praise to you," responded another member of the group, whose post was the first of many encouraging comments.
A new trend — seeking praise from strangers — has gone viral on Chinese social media, especially among China's over-stressed young people. A number of chat groups have been formed that are designed to show kindness and support to members, the very opposite tone one often finds on social media platforms.
The "in-need-of-praise" chat groups are a reflection of Chinese culture which values modesty and humility, where openly seeking and giving praise is uncommon, leading many people to often disguise their true emotions even from their families.
When a doctoral student posted frustrations after meeting an advisor, she received lots of encouragement from strangers. "You are exploring the most advanced knowledge and working for all of humanity." The grad student also received this it-could-be-worse encouragement. "At least your advisor still meets with you. Mine has given up on me."
The trend seems to have started with a chat group on the social media platform Douban four years ago, where people are consoled with praise for their burnt, overcooked sausage or a failed exam. Since March many other chat groups in a similar woe-is-me vein have become popular.
People simply need encouragement to get through a tough day, said Zhang Chu, who created her own "in-need-of-praise" WeChat group.
She started by inviting 100 of her WeChat friends or friends' friends. Within 48 hours, however, the group had hit the 500-person ceiling, most of whom are complete strangers, Zhang told the Global Times on Sunday.
"I am more candid with strangers than my parents when talking about my vulnerabilities and bad things in life," a 25-year-old graduate student in Zhang's group said. "It's weird and embarrassing to say 'I got a high score for my coursework' to my parents and hope I get their praise," he said.