The phenomenon of public comments


“Desperately seeking Dragon Baby!”, reads the headline on the Weekend Herald. A recent story in the Weekend explored the phenomenon of Chinese going out of their way to have a baby in the Year of Dragon, a year that is seen as auspicious and important for the Chinese.


Hospital beds, midwives and special mother and baby care services in Greater Chinas were booked a year in advance. Policy planners and makers are also prepared for the baby boom every 12 years to ensure they have the services to cope with the demand.

This phenomenon is a very unusual one for the New Zealand audience. Why would people go through the great length to ensure they have a child born in the Year of Dragon?

The newspaper article, followed by two 6 o’clock news, featured a single, ‘desperate’, and ‘determined’ Chinese woman (aka moi!) who wanted to have a child in the Year of Dragon and is open to the idea of artificial insemination.

The Guardian reported in 2008 about the growing trend of single, financially independent English women in their late 20s and early 30s, seeking artificial insemination. The reason is simple, it has been increasingly more difficult for single women to find the right partner and they are worried about missing the ‘fertility window’.

Followers to my Facebook page has increased from 69 to 89 and my Twitter followers have increased from 757 to 765 within a day. My WordPress blog, which is usually about the ethnic communities in Auckland, had a massive increase of readership. The story about Dragon Baby was read by 163 people in three days. The average number of readership to my blog – 5 a day! Talk about increase of readership!

Most comments were posted on English social media medium; almost none were posted in the Chinese medium, Weibo, a microblogging site similar to Twitter. Perhaps this is so common, Chinese social media users didn’t find this topic interesting at all.

Comments were positive, negative and creepy! Many friends were supportive, clarified with me and some completely laughed it off. Then there are strangers, friends of friends, who think this is wrong and selfish and were criticizing me based on the story. Then there are the creepy ones who rapidly filled my page and tweets with “donation offers”.

People were way more interested in people’s private life than world changing and social justice business. (No one cared about the ethnic community advocacy work I was doing!) Social media gave people a platform to believe that it is socially acceptable to make assumptions and judgment about you, your values and how you live your life , as a stranger, based on one story or one post (“I can’t believe you are so proud of yourself by going on TV!! I am so disturbed by your move! I am a mum and I think you are not mature enough to be one!!!”) BUT I DON’T KNOW YOU!

Perhaps this is the byproduct of the “Kardashians Effect”. Perhaps this is the byproduct of today’s world filled with reality TV shows (they aren’t real, people!) and oversharing on social media. Everyone, even if you are not a public personality, if you have chosen to share your life with the world, be prepared to give up you privacy and accept criticism. (And unfortunately fame ≠ wealth in this case, I would be quite happy to have the Kardashians’ wealth too.)

Social media is just another communication tool. Before you make another (smart) comment on any posts, just because you can feel, hear, touch or smell the other person, doesn’t mean they are not real. Would you say what you said to their face?

Editor in Chief at here SMNZ, I have a passion for social and digital media. When not writing and managing SMNZ I am the Head of Innovation at TAG The Agency, a digital ad agency and the Head of Sales and Marketing for End-Game, a software development agency. I'm also involved with a number of startups and I am always keen to support those that are bold enough to give things a go. Start something, better to try than to live wondering what if...


  1. Bradley Scott Reply

    Hey Bevan, it is a pretty well documented and understood phenomenon that comments on blog posts and other forums that allow anonymity tend to bring out more affronting and unfiltered opinions and views. So, I would agree that many of the commenters wouldn’t have made the same comments in person. But regardless if this is a correct way for people or our society to behave, it is pretty common and I would go so far as to say broadly understood.
    As such, anyone who chooses to participate in public debate, or raise their opinions in forums where discussions can take place anonymously should reasonably expect those kinds of unfiltered comments- complementary and critical. 
    In retrospect, do you really find it that surprising?

    1. Bevan Chuang Reply

      Hi Bradley, I totally agree that people who have chosen to participate
      or initiate a public debate, their opinions are definitely subjected to
      feedback. It is exactly what is happening here too!

      I think it
      is interesting to though that social media allowed more people to
      participate in a debate, no anonymously. And also more likely to make
      more personal comments than in a public forum. They are often making
      comments directly to and at you; instead of forums like newspaper where
      you become a third party.

      Same thing happens to the Mayor, Len
      Brown’s page. Read the comments, people are writing on his page as if
      they were talking to him. Really, as most of us wouldn’t be surprise
      that to learn that it is his staff who looks after it.

      I guess the difference is that with Social Media, it is more personal. And for me, this is nore a phenomenon I want to express.

  2. Roger Reply

    Have a passing look at the comments sections on daily cartoon sites, people there are also writing as if  they were talking to the cartoon characters, often clearly expecting them to reply.  It is very weird!

  3. Caitlin Hayns Reply

    I think social media and oversharing has caused a lot of people to lose their filters. It’s pretty sad, 30 years ago you would NEVER dream of saying some of the awful things people comment on blogs etc. But in saying that, if you are running a blog, or a twitter account you have to be prepared for all kinds of comments, as you have put yourself/your opinion out there for anyone to comment on.

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