Today, I would like to introduce my online ethnography study on an open Chinese online forum. The forum consists of people who do not want to be married or have babies. In the article, I am going to analyze the reasons why they are in the online forum.
At beginning, I want to introduce some culture background of family and marriage in China. Family means a lot to Chinese people. In order to have one’s own family, one need to marry someone. The long history of agrarian society has huge influence on Chinese people’s value of family. At that time, family not only meant the basic agricultural production unit, but also the basic ways of living. Men were responsible of doing farm work, while women were responsible of doing housework and taking care of children and their parents. After children have grown up, they have to take care of their old parents. There is a common saying in China, “one lives by parents in first thirty years, and lives by offspring in last thirty years”. Hence, one needs to marry someone and have children for living. All these above traditional ways of living remain alive till now. It can be seen from the above that marriage is more related to living rather than love. To marry someone not only means marry him or her, but also his or her family.
Now let’s go back to my study on the online forum. In order to figure out the reasons why they are in the online forum, I will first introduce who they are and what they are doing there.
Who are they?
In the online forum, participants are those who will not marry or have babies. The average age of the participants are around 25 years old. And most participants are female.
What are they doing?
Now, I am going to introduce what they are doing in the forum.
At beginning, they shared ideas on why they do not approve of getting married and having children.
Participant A: I do not have enough money. For me, marriage and children are huge economic burden.
Participant B: I have been deeply hurt by my previous love experience. I do not want to be with someone anymore.
Participant C: I still want to do many things by myself. If I am married, I have to take care of my husband, my husband’s parent, and my child. Stressful!
Participant D: I do not want the responsibility!
Participant E: My mother and my grandmother have devoted themselves to their family for their entire life. However, I can see that they are not happy at all. I don’t want to repeat their life.
Then they began talking about problems aroused by not being married. After one participant raised a question, some participants also showed their concern on the same question, and some participants provided suggestions.
Participant F: I am too shy to tell others that I decide not to marry. How can I face the pressure from my friends and my relatives?
Participant G: You do not need to tell them. If they ask you why you are not married, you can lie to them that you are still thinking over the question.
Participant H: I am also worried about it. Since most of my friends choose to marry, the topic of marriage and children become one of the hottest topics among them. I can hardly share the common topic with them anymore. I feel isolated. That is why I like here. I like to communicate with you guys.
Participant I: My parents and relatives keep pressing me to marry. What can I do?
Participant J: You can tell them the advantages and disadvantages of marriage. Maybe they can understand you.
Participant K: I face the same questions with you. I just ignore them.
Participant L: I am little worried if no one can find me after I am dead.
Participant M: That is a question!
Participant N: Don’t worry about this. It is too far away!
From the above conversations, it can be seen that participants are sharing ideas in the forum. And they encourage and help each others through discourses. Moreover, from these words, I’ve learnt that these participants live under pressure in real society. Since they choose to be minority, they have to face the pressure from the majority. In the online forum, they find people who can understand and support them. They have sense of belonging, and feel relaxed and safe in the forum.
Why are they in the online forum?
There are several reasons why they are in the online forum.
First, female participants feel encouraged to insist their idea. Most participants are female in the forum. Usually, in China, women face more pressure than men, if they choose not to be married. The majority still believe that women cannot support themselves, although it is not true any longer. Before, these female participants had to face the pressure by themselves alone. But now, since they feel encouraged by the discourses online; psychologically, they do not feel alone anymore. They have courage to insist on what they want.
Second, the participants can express themselves without any worry in the online forum. In offline society, the participants can hardly find someone, who understand them. However, the other online participants can. The sense of belongingness in the online forum makes them feel comfortable. Moreover, “the feeling of anonymity allows for increased risk taking with revelations.”  In the online forum, it is unnecessary to tell who exactly they are. People can talk about their problems and concerns to others, and “do not need to worry about running into them on the street next day”.  Hence, they turn to online world to express themselves.
Third, in the online forum, they can meet new friends from various places, who have like-minded. From the basic information of the participants, it can be seen that people are from different cities in China. Because of the Internet, people can communicate with each other regardless of physical geographic obstacles. Because of the online forum, they can meet like-minded people from different places.
From the above, the reasons why these people are in the online forum become clear.
Thanks for reading!
1, Alvin Cooper, Leda Sportolari, and San Jose Marital. 1997. Romance in Cyberspace: Understanding Online Attraction. JOURNAL OF SEX EDUCATION AND THERAPY VOL.22, No. 1 , pp. 7-14.Printed IN U.S.A.. http://neuage.org/phd/vc/39-romance.html