China’s banned humor app built a huge community online (and offline)
Neihan Duanzi has a loyal following that regularly gather offline
April 8th was a good day for Bingjie Cheng. That was the day the music student was admitted to graduate school.
Outside of the app, Duanyous communicate in WeChat group chats, where members arrange gatherings and charity events, or help each other out if someone gets into trouble. Cheng said some even join each other’s weddings.
We spoke to another Duanyou who asked not to reveal his name. He manages five WeChat group chats full of Duanyous.
He says he spends about 4 to 5 hours on the app every day, because life is boring and it makes him laugh. “Neihan means how to say interesting things with some depth, while making people laugh,” he says, “and when you put several hours into it every day, it becomes a habit, and it feels like love.”
But he also said Duanzi’s owner Bytedance isn’t a fan of offline gatherings. “The problem with offline activities is they’re hard to control,” he said.
That doesn’t mean the company isn’t trying. He and Cheng were invited to a meeting of Duanyou group leaders organized by fellow Bytedance app Toutiao. There, they were encouraged to speak about the offline meetings they’d arranged.
Neihan Duanzi is gone, but fans are trying to keep it alive in other places online.
Despite their passion, fans worry memories of their beloved site will quickly vanish.
“If it goes on like this, in less than a week, people would have already forgotten about Neihan Duanzi,” Cheng said.