So much of our extremely online lives now revolves around things like the president of the United States threatening to either nuke North Korea or show them his genitals (not sure which!) or worrying about massive security breaches. But hey, some of it also rules.
Per NPR, one of the hottest trends on Chinese social media is now live-streaming rural life—things like agriculture, picking weeds, taking care of animals, or fishing and trapping freshwater creatures in rice paddies. Credit Suisse data shows China’s live-streaming industry is approaching $3 billion a year, according to NPR, and the result has been rural denizens like 26-year-old farmer Liu Jin Ying making bank and minor celebrity status with nice videos of the country life.
Liu’s making an astonishing $1,500 a month from 200,000 subscribers, the most anyone in his hometown of Three Stones Village has ever made. That’s far more than the average salary of anywhere in China except maybe Beijing and Shanghai, per Bloomberg BNA data.
“When I started livestreaming, my neighbors saw me talking to myself and thought I had gone crazy,” Liu told NPR. “Some of them told my parents I was being tricked into a pyramid scheme. Everyone thought I had become a lunatic.”
While restrictions on more exotic live-streaming options may play a role in directing Chinese audiences towards family-friendly content, Liu says it’s BuzzFeed-style nostalgia doing most of the work:
“A lot of people who live in urban China grew up in the countryside. They miss life on the farm and the fun they had when they were kids,” he explains. “My most popular moments are when I livestream myself playing with an iron hoop or catching eels and crabs in the rice paddies.”
China’s internet is subject to immense amounts of official censorship, which extends even to stupid things like memes of President Xi Jinping next to Winnie the Pooh. But it’s hard not to find the Chinese farm-streaming craze charming in specific comparison to, say, obnoxious Paul spawn searching Japanese forests for suicide victims, or PewDiePie paying Indian men to hold signs that say “Death to All Jews,” or parents maybe mentally abusing their children for views. It’s nice! It’s nice... Let’s just all agree it’s
going to be the subject of a future Black Mirror episode nice.