:: meeting people online is not hard: online acquaintances can be made in general-interest BBS forums, through SNS websites, or over IM software. But finding love in these online relationships might be a little awkward, so a wide range of websites have sprung up to help Chinese netizens meet a special someone to spend the rest of their life with, or just to get together for a quick roll in the hay.
general match-making ::
Baihe is the premier online personals site in China. Founded in 2005, it claims to have reached 13 million registered members at the end of 2008. From its motto (“soul mates finding a happy marriage”) to the services it offers, Baihe is geared toward bringing people together for traditional marriages, not casual dating. The website provides a Soulmate tool that performs a personality quiz and tries to match users up with compatible mates. With its sizable membership, Baihe has large local sub-groups in cities across China so people can find possible matches close to them. Other matchmaking websites are job-specific. 91Fate is aimed at white-collar workers; the website specifies that members must have achieved at least a vocational college level of education. And at Central Meetup (央务鹊桥), the Chinese government has set up a website for single civil servants and party cadres. Aspiring members apply through the government and party employees committee and can then take part in special singles events organized by the website and related organizations. And Shanghai-registered gay portal BoySky has a personals section (阳光交友) that has profiles from men across the country, along with a BBS, chat rooms, and video chat services.
Some people may not be interested in long-term relationships. For them, there’s 9yiye (就一夜交友), whose name translates to “Friends for a night.” This matchmaking website is devoted to bringing people together for one-night stands. Newly-registered users are given 1,000 free credits, and the website encourages users to reveal their real personal information and participate in community-building activities by rewarding them with extra credits — 300 for uploading a personal, 40 for revealing a phone number, and 2 for posting a comment — which can be used toward typical SNS services like buying virtual gifts and sending phone messages. In terms of privacy protection, the website allows users to send emails or text messages to others without revealing their addresses or phone numbers. Anticipating that one-night-stand registration could be used as a tool for harassment, 9yiye threatens to report people who fill in false information to the police. Currently, users are predominately male. There are countless other dodgy BBS forums that get thousands of comments a day in forums devoted to hookups. A random example is Avi4, which divides hookup requests by region and has other sub-forums for adult content and other, restricted boards for edgier stuff like partner-swapping and bestiality (how much of this is more than just for show remains unknown — entrance requires VIP status on the website). The site claims to be registered with the Ministry of Industry and Information in Guangzhou, but its registration number which isn’t in the database, and it’s hosted in the US. This and other sites like it (search Baidu for 一夜情论坛) form a part of the Chinese language Internet unwelcome by the authorities but that seems to satisfy a certain need on the part of netizens.
S&M site SMNei is an SNS aimed at people into S&M. Currently there are 25426 members who can join various interest groups, like “bondage and dripping wax” sex group, which are only open to members. Like other Facebook / Xiaonei knock-offs, SMNei profiles include a discussion board, a message board, a photo album, and functionality for users to seek other people who share their same S&M interests, such as seen in user Zuqiandai’s profile.
non-traditional relationships ::
Asexual Marriage (无性婚姻网) is probably the most well-known website devoted to bringing people together for marriages in which sex does not play a part. It’s been covered in the mainland media as well as in a 2006 Reuters article. The site mentions various reasons for which people may be seeking asexual marriages – no sex drive, a desire for purely platonic companionship, or for medical reasons – but judging from the articles posted on the front page as well as the links bar at the bottom, the website is largely geared toward homosexuals who are seeking a traditional marriage as demanded by heteronormative Chinese society.
video chat ::
Love65 (65经典社区) is a social network site that offers games, stories, and discussion groups but is mostly devoted to video chat. It’s fee-based, and features “dancing,” “KTV,” and “private chat”. A warning banner on video pages says that the platform is solely for making friends, and that members should not tempt video presenters to do anything obscene or pornographic. Similar restrictions appear on other mainstream video chat sites, such as Liaoliao (聊聊语音聊天网), particularly after anti-filth campaigns. Nonetheless, there are lots of dodgier sites, many of which seem to be outright scams, that promote sex chat services. 3ren.com, a platform for building special-interest SNS websites, hosts a recently-launched Naked Chatroom (裸聊社区) to connect people for sex chatting. However, judging from the QQ numbers that get exchanged on other BBS discussion forums, and screenshots that circulate on adult image websites, most naked chatting and cybering probably takes place outside the browser, in IM software applications.
[Friday 5 is the product of my work at Edelman Digital (China). Link here for the full Friday 5 archive. If you'd like to be added to the bilingual (English & Chinese) Friday 5 email distribution list, please send me an email at: adam DOT schokora AT edelman DOT com.]