Let's call it the "Jia Junpeng phenomenon."
What is it? It's actually a sensation out of nothing or a demonstration of collective boredom.
No one knows who Jia Junpeng is, but this name became famous in less than 24 hours due to a forum post that in effect said: "Jia Junpeng, your mother is calling you home for dinner." It attracted more than 4 million viewers and nearly 200,000 comments in one day.
The post appeared on the World of Warcraft (WoW) forum on Baidu, a Chinese portal. A WoW server outage in China has lasted for 40 days. Some 5 million WoW players, who have been angrily waiting for the operational return of the servers, have interpreted the post as a call for the service to start back up as soon as possible. Game experts have said that online players are bored and that the post provided them an opportunity to get away from this boredom.
That probably makes sense. "Your mother is calling you home for dinner" strikes a chord in all those who had the childhood experience of forgetting to go home for dinner and being dragged back by their mothers.
The post and the unimaginably overzealous reaction to it is a reminder of the Internet paradox: An increasing number of people have become addicted to any online venue, whether they be games or chatrooms, to fill in a void within their lives. But as it turns out, these cyberspace activities have made them more lost about the meaning of life.
"Your mother is calling you home for dinner" must have such an echo in millions of Internet users that they may think of their own mothers and how far their online obsession has pulled them from reality.
Collective boredom has resulted from the collective obsession with the virtual world but perhaps there is a collective therapy to help online users from such tedium. Many might have felt even more bored before the age of the computer and Internet, but they did not have a chance to share their feelings of boredom with so many. This is one of among many ways that the Internet has changed our lives.
This reminds me of what happened in Qixian county of Central China's Henan province.
An online post was circulated falsely stating that a possible radioactive explosion of cobalt 60 in a local factory has brought such agitation among local residents that many set off on a journey to seek shelter in neighboring counties.
That is how powerful the Internet can be for the transmission of information.
The fact that quite a number of corrupt officials were nabbed as a result of online tips also speaks volumes about the power of the Internet in terms of its swiftness and wide scope. Any technology is double-edged; the Internet is no exception.
However, no one suffers from this Jia Junpeng brouhaha. If it can be called a social phenomenon, it points to the reality that cyberspace can be a place where millions of people seek harmless fun - but never forget that your mom wants you back home for dinner.
For Internet users, the context-less sentence can be a reminder that roaming through cyberspace should never detract from what one does in real life. For government, this should serve as a reminder that the way they handle the relationship between their information and public opinion must change.
(China Daily 07/25/2009 page4)