Subway passengers in Xiamen, a coastal city in Southeast China, have discovered a new way to entertain themselves during their commutes: publicly complaining about their jobs and having to wake up early to travel to work.
And while you may be imagining a group of Chinese youth verbally venting their angst in a metro carriage, snap back to reality and remember that it’s 2022 — this shit happens on social media now. Here’s how it works: Thanks to a mobile program released by Xiamen Mobile TV in August 2021, commuters in the seaside metropolis can send anonymous messages to the broadcaster’s official account on the Chinese super-app WeChat.
Some of the messages sent to the program, dubbed Xiamen Tree Hole (厦门树洞), referencing the popular Chinese internet term ‘tree hole’ (meaning ‘a safe place to share secrets’), are streamed on TV screens in subway cars for the enjoyment and amusement of other commuters.
Videos and photos of some of these messages have gone viral on the Chinese microblogging platform Weibo in the past few weeks, and a related hashtag had amassed more than 27 million views at the time of writing.
Among the highlights on the subway’s in-carriage TV monitors is a message from someone justifying their temperament (“If I have to work every day, it’s only rational that I’m a bit mental.”). Another comment wished for rude awakenings for people still sleeping (“I’m awake. I hope people who are still sleeping would fall off their bed.”).
As noted above, the program has been around for over a year, but it experienced a spike in popularity during the seven-day workweek that followed China’s seven-day National Day holiday earlier this month. (For the unaware: China regularly requires workers to work makeup days on weeks leading up to or following government holidays.)
Presumably, many people felt the need to vent about getting out of bed early seven days in a row, especially right after the holiday. Needless to say, they successfully found a way to be passive-aggressive sans judgment.
Another reason the work- and sleep-related messages have gone viral is the larger ‘lying flat’ and ‘let it rot’ phenomena in China. The sarcastic and cynical tone that pervades most of the viral messages perfectly encapsulates the vibe of exhausted and listless youths who cannot change the status quo and aim to do just the bare minimum at work.
One of the messages even reads, “I’m letting it rot today, tomorrow, and the day after. If that’s not consistency, I don’t know what is.”
On Weibo, others have pointed out that part of the appeal of the subway car messages is that they are — allegedly — subjected to weaker censorship oversight than comments on other social media platforms.
Cover image via Depositphotos
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