Diaosi (Losers)

The dregs of Chinese society, igored by their government, scoffed at by their countrymen were angry, hopeless and weak. the Internet gave them a nasty voice.

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How can we describe the majority of Chinese Internet users? As the Internet penetrates the Chinese population, mainstream online culture is challenged more and more by diaosi (屌丝), a slang, roughly translated to loser.

Despising mainstream and elite opinions, diaosi are proud to tag themselves “Ai cuo qiong (short, ugly and poor),” and oppose “gao fu shuai (tall, wealthy and handsome)” and “bai fu mei (white, wealthy and beautiful—the female version of gao fu shuai).” Since its invention in 2011, Chinese has embraced the term so well that it’s no longer a derogatory term. The major online players are delighted to finally have their own identity.

When China first connected with the network in 1994, only upper-class users with high incomes were able to access. At that time, the Internet environment was positive and inspirational. Quality information and literature portals such as rongshuxia.com were generated, providing a crucial tool for emerging talent such as Annie Baobei.

Entering the 21st Century, personal computers and cybercafés sprouted aggressively around campus and factories. For the first time, regular people approached the Internet and couldn’t resist wasting time and becoming addicted to online gaming, movies and chat rooms. The first generation of wanghong (online celebrities) surfaced, having no special skills or talents besides being the first ones to show off. They are even plain-looking, like sister Furong, a self-proclaimed dancing expert.

As China’s virtual community continued to expand, computers have pervaded every urban family, plus the abundant availability of Internet-enabled smartphones in the last three years. The total number of users reached 731 million in 2016, over a half of the country’s alleged population.

A girl is harassed because she wears too little. Diaosi have no compassion and they always take pleasure in other people’s misfortune. This diaosi mindset has considerably influenced digital culture.

Meanwhile, China’s polarization between the rich and the poor has reached an alarming level. In 2016, the Gini Index fell to 46.5 from 49.1 in 2008 (the closer the value is to 1, the greater is the inequality. 40 or 0.4 is the warning level set by the United Nations). The country is perhaps now more unequal than ever.

The invention of diaosi is frustration in a country that only values richness. They discover their own definition and stage in the digital world. All the dissatisfaction and pressure due to unattainable wealth and social status can be vented out in cyberspace. They can comment, react and provoke irresponsibly on every trendy social topic and affair. A girl is harassed because she wears too little. Diaosi have no compassion and they always take pleasure in other people’s misfortune. This diaosi mindset has considerably influenced digital culture.

However, as the major Internet participants and potential customers, they are studied by IT giants and digital startups with increasing interest. Lei Jun, CEO of Xiaomi, once remarked that the Chinese mobile industry belongs to the diaosi.

So, what is diaosi?

Its literal meaning, “penis thread or pubic hair,” discloses its humble origin. It first appeared in an online verbal battle between two sub-forums of the BBS Baidu Tieba in October 2011. The group who was humiliated with the new word, loved it and continued to use it. By the end of 2012, it had ranked the first of top 10 cyberwords in China in 2012.

In the background, they are born in China’s vast remote countryside, or the low-class of urban families. Their parents don’t have valuable connections and resources, they are stuck in the same class as their parents. They end up to be the second generation of rural migrant workers, urban self-employed craftsmen, young construction workers, employees at the bottom of a company, the jobless and the low-educated.

Research showed that the self-defined diaosi are men who earn around 3,000 RMB a month, with almost no disposable income. No house, no car, no savings. They don’t like to or have money to go out. The biggest hobby and entertainment is playing online video games.

They self-claim to be unattractive, too, and no taller than 168 cm. Thus, they can’t get girlfriends in the competitive dating market. Originally, the Single’s Day (November 11th) was created by them to make fun of the “beautiful” solitary.