Cats vs. dogs, iOS vs. Android, Canon vs. Sony, Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors, McDonald’s vs. KFC, Tencent vs. ByteDance — these and countless other binary debates have found their way into so-called curse groups on Chinese social app WeChat, where users are blowing off steam by hurling abuse at one another.
The war of words chat groups began appearing last week after LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers lost a third straight game to the Golden State Warriors in the 2018 NBA Finals: On Friday, Cavs fans took to WeChat to vent their frustrations and taunt the Warriors faithful. In the days since, the phenomenon of curse groups has blown up, with foul language flying left and right.
On Friday, WeChat’s security center published a notice saying it had received reports of “uncivilized behavior,” including verbal abuse and discrimination, in chats with the phrase “curse group” in their title. The notice added that some groups had been found to contain prohibited content related to gambling and pornography. Users found to have violated WeChat’s terms and services, the notice continued, could be punished by having their log-ins restricted to a single device or their accounts suspended.
“We support users expressing themselves freely and reasonably on WeChat,” the notice read, “but we also advise them to converse civilly.” It concluded by reminding users that group admins are responsible for all content in the chats they oversee.
Netizens have also taken to China’s most popular Q&A platform, Zhihu, to discuss the phenomenon. One early initiate to curse groups shared his experience in a popular post that includes several screenshots. He suggested that what had made the Warriors vs. Cavs groups so popular was the fact that some users had come up with creative ways to dis each other — through rapping and beatboxing, for example. He opined that the purpose of curse groups is not to determine definitively which side is superior, but to swear and argue for the sake of swearing and arguing. “This chat group is like a 24/7 bloodsport arena,” he wrote, referring to the Warriors-Cavs group.
The Faculty of Psychology at Beijing Normal University also weighed in on Zhihu about the rise of curse groups, explaining that swearing can give people an outlet for their emotions, and even relieve pain and stress. “After a day spent carefully maintaining one image in the real world, it seems understandable that swearing in WeChat groups could help alleviate anxiety,” wrote the academic account.
Twenty-four-year-old Fan Shixu created a “cats vs. dogs” group on Friday — but while the group drew lots of discussion initially, the conversation gradually died down over the weekend. Fan told Sixth Tone he believes many people join curse groups for fun, and to feel they’ve participated in what could be a fleeting fad.
“As a virtual world, the internet has fewer limitations than reality,” Fan said. “Insulting or cursing others is, in essence, a way to blow off steam — of putting our disguises aside and giving free reign to our bad nature.”
Editor: David Paulk.
(Header image: DigitalVision/VCG)