Media Representation of Loneliness in China
In recent years, China has experienced social and economic development along with continuously improving living standards. However, Chinese people’s sense of loneliness has shown epidemic trends in different age groups, social classes, and social interaction levels, which has been widely reported by the domestic media. This paper aims to analyze the manifestations, evolution, and comprehensive factors of Chinese people’s loneliness in the context of media representation, further studies the current lonely culture in China, and finally proposes strategies of adjustment for the social loneliness in China. This study picks “loneliness” and “sense of loneliness” as key words and selects 168 media coverage of loneliness between 2006 and 2017 from the mainstream media networks (People’s Daily Online and Xinhua News Network) in China as the study sample for content analysis and case study. The results of the analysis reveal that (1) Chinese mainstream media’s attention to the loneliness is presenting a growing tendency in recent years; (2) The coverage subjects emphasize on the phenomenon of loneliness and the derivative “lonely culture”; and (3) Moderate reporting framework and multiple reporting subjects present the social concern of the mainstream media and their reporting preferences based on various groups of people (including empty nesters, live-alone youths, left-behind children, alone-together in social networks, etc.). There are a variety of reasons for the formation of the social loneliness in China, including China’s one-child policy, rapid urbanization process, and individual’s network being. The social impacts of the loneliness give birth to the “lonely culture” in China: There are lonely catering culture of “single food”; lonely consumer culture of “single KTV” as well as lonely screen culture of “The Solitary Gourmet”. This paper provides suggestions for representing loneliness and accordingly could achieve the decrease of social loneliness in China. This study suggests that the media should be alarm to the potential social dangers brought by psychological loneliness and avoid over-emphasis on social loneliness and its derivative culture; the media should spread the traditional Chinese family culture and family values, promoting the care of state policies leaning to the family unit as basic social component and therefore enhancing the public’s sense of security and belonging.
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