Our goal is to create something that complements the existing coverage with a first-hand, human perspective of everyday life on the Chinese internet. We want to take the time to analyze interesting conversations before the internet moves on to the next thing, keeping track of what changes or repeats over time. In other words, this is the resource we needed ourselves, and we are sharing it with the hope that it can be a useful weekly resource for you as well.
Their inaugural issue, which you can read online here, focuses on the e-commerce frenzy of Singles Day in China:
Reading online conversations about Singles’ Day (and around online retail in general), there are some noticeable themes: a sense of panic-induced purchasing, self-deprecation about a lack of self-control, and performative regret. Two terms commonly tossed around in conversations leading up to the holiday are 剁手 (“hand amputation” in a last-ditch effort to prevent additional purchases) and 吃土 (“eating dirt” because you are too broke to eat anything else after a shopping bender).
Alibaba itself officially recognized the 剁手族 (“Hand Amputation Tribe”) in a report about its customers back in 2013, in which it classified them as white-collar consumers who spent an average of 161,600 RMB ($25,000 USD!) per year online. The report also revealed that men actually made more online purchases than women, though this did little to deter the common narrative of women as the compulsive, irresponsible shoppers.
What I love about the Magpie Digest is its direct voice and ethnographic approach. They skip over the usually trite commentary on China, jumping straight to the artifacts (gifs, memes, screencapped conversations) and what they tell us about young people in China today. It helps that the examples they choose are vivid and humorous, which really is just a reflection of what it’s like to be on the internet in China (or elsewhere) today.