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'Blind box' socialization a hit among young people

By YANG ZEKUN | China Daily | Updated: 2024-03-20 09:21
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Joining a group of strangers for an activity, such as having a meal or playing a game, has become popular among young people.

This social phenomenon, also known as "blind box socialization," involves participants whose identities remain unknown until they meet, akin to selecting a box whose content is a mystery. The uncertainty of other participants brings about a tremendous sense of novelty, which is the key attraction for young people seeking surprising social encounters.

Activities such as dining out, shopping and playing outdoor games such as hide and seek and throwing a frisbee are often initiated online by individuals who recruit a group of strangers to participate.

Some participants have said that they have made many new friends through such activities, while some have admitted encountering instances of impolite behavior.

Hu Lingling, a 28-year-old employee at an internet company in Beijing, discovered blind box socialization activities on the lifestyle-sharing platform Xiaohongshu last year. As she is not a Beijing native and lacks local friends, especially those interested in outdoor activities, she decided to join these activities to meet new friends.

Before each event, she joins a WeChat group formed by the organizer. Upon arriving at the venues, she noticed that participants would warmly greet each other, making her feel comfortable.

Hu described blind box events as enriching social choices, broadening social channels, improving social efficiency and alleviating the pressure of getting together with acquaintances for young people with socialization needs.

"In this environment, everyone can chat casually, even venting their usual work and life frustrations during activities. Because all the participants are strangers, I don't have to worry about getting along with them. When communicating with strangers, I don't have to consider their emotions as much as handling relationships with friends. We can play together if we want to and disperse if we wish," she said.

Hu mentioned that many participants often mention being introverted and not inclined to socialize, hoping to find a channel for communication and interaction.

When she first participated last June, she approached it with a try-it-out attitude, with some doubts. The people she encountered were diverse and unpredictable, making her feel fresh and a bit exhilarated. Over time, she grew to enjoy this form of socialization.

She also organized two such events herself, hiking on a hill in Mentougou district and camping at a site in Changping district in Beijing.

Hu acknowledged seeing some complaints about harassment and scams on social media, recognizing the risks and negative behaviors from other participants.

"We can't condemn it outright. After all, the emergence of this socializing method reflects a demand among young people and a new trend to avoid socializing with acquaintances. What we need to do is to strengthen screening and prevention measures to minimize these negative occurrences," she said.

Participants should be mindful of potential risks, and organizers of such activities should fulfill their legal responsibilities, said Han Xiao, a lawyer from the Beijing Kangda Law Firm, as the Civil Code stipulates that event organizers who fail to fulfill their safety obligations bear liability.

In case of accidents or emergencies, organizers might be liable if they fail to prevent coercive drinking, ensure the safe return of intoxicated individuals, prevent drunk driving or fail to provide reminders and care, he said.

Han suggested organizers prepare safety plans, inform participants of the activity content and risks in writing before the start, and advise participants to verify the authenticity of organizers and activities before participating, preserving relevant evidence if inappropriate behaviors occur.

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