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Couple in China act as ‘digital parents’ to unhappy young netizens searching for familial love

Couple in China act as ‘digital parents’ in Douyin skits

Lonely young people in China who are searching for familial comfort have found solace in a pair of content creators on social media platform Douyin.

The creators, 48-year-old Jiang Xiuping and 50-year-old Pan Huqian who are behind the account @Henverfenxiangrichang (transliterated), act as fictional “parents” to those who need emotional support but can’t find it in their lives.

Jiang and Pan are in fact a real-life married couple with a daughter, who’s a Douyin influencer herself, according to Rest of World.

Source: @和女儿分享日常 on Douyin

They appeared in her livestream last year as a guest, and when commenters spoke with envy about their close relationship, decided to act as “parents” to their followers.

In their skits, the couple speaks directly into the camera, addressing viewers as if they were their children.

The account, which means “sharing daily life with our daughter” in English, has gained 1.2 million followers in less than six months, according to a South China Morning Post report.

Scenarios suggested by followers

Fans call them their “digital parents” or “dad and mum” while calling their own parents “father- and mother-in-law” or “cousin parents”.

Videos depict typical everyday family life and activities — one show them “teaching” their kid to ride a bike. Others show them grocery shopping or spending a day at the park — scenes often suggested by their followers.

The pair also give pep talks that mimic a video call, encouraging their “children” not to be anxious about studies or work.

Source: @和女儿分享日常 on Douyin

Their videos have drawn much attention, with many followers speaking to them as though they are their real parents.

One follower whose parents had died even asked Pan and Jiang to pretend to be their parents appearing to them in a dream.

In the video filmed in a bamboo grove, Jiang teared up as she expressed regret over missing her child’s wedding, a sad song playing in the background.

Children as young as 12 have also reached out to the couple, with many sharing that they suffer from depression, Jiang told Rest of World.

Former wedding planners to “digital parents”

Pan and Jiang did not plan to become content creators. They worked as wedding planners in the Shaanxi province until they had to close shop due to Covid lockdowns and fewer weddings in China, according to Rest of World.

Digital Parents China 2

Source: @和女儿分享日常 on Douyin

Now, thanks to their unexpected success on Douyin, the couple earns a living through product placement deals, promoting items such as food, skincare products, and homeware.

Concerns on safety risks

According to South China Morning Post, this account is just one of many offering services as a “virtual parent” or “digital parent” to affection-starved youths in China.

Globally, there are also a few “rent-a-dad” services, such as one launched by a Jeff Yablon in New York City. He is available for tasks “typically reserved for dear old Dad”, from furniture assembly to accompanying someone to a parent-teacher conference, according to Business Insider.

Closer to home, Singaporean personal trainer and singer-songwriter Tyen Rasif recently shared her experience when she rented a dad in Tokyo for a day.

@tyenrasif

Healing or weird? ❤️‍🩹🤪 #japantravel #asakusa #travelvlog #dadrental #mentalhealth #fyp #foryou #fypシ #soundsofsea #tunesofsg #tokyo

♬ Taking Off – Tyen Rasif

However, there are some in China who expressed concerns about the potential safety risks of this trend. Others also feel worried about what the growing demand for fictitious parents says about the nation’s households.

According to Yu Zehao, a psychotherapist in Wuhan, digital parents can provide comfort to young people dealing with emotional challenges but may also damage their sense of reality.

However, Fan Xiaotong, a middle school fan of Pan and Jiang, told Sixth Tone: “What matters is they provide me with a certain emotional benefit.”

Also read: 12-Year-Old Boy Cooks & Cleans At Parents’ Restaurant In China, Wants To Alleviate Their Burden

12-Year-Old Boy Cooks & Cleans At Parents’ Restaurant In China, Wants To Alleviate Their Burden

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Featured image adapted from Source: @和女儿分享日常 on Douyin

 

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