China takes to latest trend lying down

BEIJING(China Daily/ANN) – Participants are quick to plunge into the Falling Stars Challenge.

A firefighter equipped with extinguisher, water gun and breathing apparatus lay on the ground on his stomach in front of a fire engine.

Photos of the officer from the Fire Corps in Jiangxi province have been viewed more than 18 million times.

He was taking part in the Falling Stars Challenge, which involves participants posting photos of themselves lying face down on the ground with a variety of possessions scattered around them, including luxury items and work tools.

Photos taken by the firefighters for the challenge have also included those of a technician with repair equipment, and a communications officer with cameras, satellite phones and a drone.

The Falling Stars Challenge, which translates as “flaunting one’s wealth challenge” in Chinese, has gone viral on social networks.

More than 1.08 million Chinese joined the hashtag for the challenge on Sina Weibo, which has been viewed 2.22 billion times.

The meme (an idea, behaviour or style that spreads from person to person within a culture) originated in Russia on Instagram. Some photos posted overseas even show people purporting to have fallen out of their private jets or cars.

Li Deliang, who updates the Jiangxi Fire Corps’ micro blog and WeChat account to raise awareness of fire safety and prevention, said, “The public is always interested in this equipment, which is also firefighters’ most valuable sign of wealth to flaunt.

“Netizens think this is a down-to-earth approach to popularise fire prevention, and they like it very much.”

While the challenge is becoming popular in many countries, it is taking on new meaning in China, where people from different professions, institutions and government organisations are showcasing their work and lives through items or equipment they use each day.

University students are posing for pictures with typical items they use, ranging from textbooks to painting brushes. Police, soldiers and public prosecutors are showing their working environments, bringing them closer to the public, who are submitting pictures of their hobbies through items such as medals for running marathons.

People’s Daily stated on its micro blog that although these photos are posed, they present people’s real lives. Members of the younger generation are expressing themselves in this way because they love their jobs and are “wealthy” due to their dedication to work, it said.

Chen Jiaxin, 20, a junior from Shaanxi Normal University who is in charge of its micro blog account, said, “Students on campus love the challenge very much and volunteer to pose for these photos.”

She said students are often interested in hot issues such as studies, social news, celebrities and games.

One photo shows an undergraduate lying on textbooks for the teaching certificate examination.

The university is one of many that have posted such photos on their social media accounts.

A popular post by Shanghai Jiao Tong University features a computer programmer who has fallen down with a briefcase and different-coloured checked shirts, which are believed to be an unwritten dress code for the profession.

Novelist Rao Xueman posed for photos in which she fell on her books, while fellow writer Liu Tong took a fall with dozens of copies of his new book, providing an ideal promotional opportunity.

Xiao Yao, who is in charge of marketing at Xiron Books Co, initiated the idea for Liu and posted his photos on her WeChat Moments feed. The private company publishes many popular novels, including Liu’s new work.

Xiao believes the Falling Stars Challenge is just a fad and that many people post such photos online purely for fun and to break life’s monotony.

However, it gives writers an opportunity to present a new book to readers in an innovative way, Xiao said, adding, “It also breaks the public’s stereotypical view of the book industry-they find out that being a book editor can be fun.

“Being a book editor means that you have to be multitasking. It’s a busy job and you need to communicate with a lot of people.”

Xiao uses various promotional methods on social media to promote new publications to readers.

She said that in the internet era, people can easily access massive amounts of data, so it is essential to take advantage of this and provide in-depth information.

“Content always counts. As for books, only good quality is coming through and receiving positive feedback from readers, which has a far-reaching influence,” she said.

“You have to be careful when you follow this fad. It is challenging for us to ‘cultivate’ the good content of our books and do our utmost to spread it online in a proper way.”

Fang Shishi, assistant professor from the Institute of Journalism at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, said the trend is just another successful example of an internet meme spreading from person to person.

“Things that are popular on social networking sites to some degree arouse people’s social awareness, ranging from taking selfies to self-mockery on social media,” she said.

These are the “social genes of the internet meme” and they can be inherited, transformed and chosen by the public, Fang said.

“Imitation is the main communication method of the internet meme. Transformations are all about the details-you cannot just keep the original version unchanged, or change it a lot,” she said.

However, she added that an internet meme is easily commercialised on social media, and then it becomes viral marketing and clickbait-content whose main purpose is to encourage readers to click on a link to a particular web page.

Photos

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