Internet slang for the most part is, well, meaningless but interesting slang. In China, one phrase from the giant internet lexicon that is Chinese slang has been called out as a phrase that may cause the social apocalypse, at least according to the vice-president of Guangzhou’s Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
The phrase in question, Diao Si (屌丝) literally means loser. Popularised in 2012, the phrase was at one point an insult to people who were deemed socially awkward.
Don’t make a lot of money? Spend a lot of time at home online? Over 20 and almost 30 with no girlfriend? Own no real estate? In China, you would be considered a Diao Si.
Eventually the phrase became an online sensation where internet users started using the phrase sarcastically and self-deprecatingly. What’s very interesting about the phrase is that the people who identify with it are the same people who, in the West, would be called hipsters. These people are young, they make a decent wage, they’re wired, and they’re fashionable. According to The Atlantic, the Diao Si market is what may drive spending in China.
So why is a such a self-deprecating term seen as an enemy of social order? According to the vice-president of the Guangzhou Chinese Academy of Social Science, Cai Guoxuan, it’s because the term and definition of Diao Si is so unclear, it can bring about social unrest!
“Ultimately it will affect the way we reason and think,” she says.
Going back to the fact that the term isn’t well-defined, Cai says that with Diao Si becoming part of the common vernacular, everyone puts their own meaning to the phrase, resulting in what may be a downward spiral in morality.
Cai’s overall argument is that new vocabulary may have detrimental effects towards society because undefined words are defined differently by everyone — though her arguments that it can lead to social instability are nearly non-existent. She just says that it will.
Personally, I see no harm in people taking self-deprecating jabs at themselves. According to the broad definitions of Diao Si, I, a single male media worker in my late 20’s making about $US2500 (adjusted for rent food and video games) am a Diao Si. Which is fine by me. I have no aspirations of being the next Warren Buffett.