A Chinese woman is offering to send “goodnight” text messages to lonely people. Her services cost about 16 cents per text message, and they have been advertised on Chinese websites.
While some people are applauding her efforts, others are deeply concerned about the levels of loneliness in China.
The woman is nicknamed Jiumei. She began offering the texting service three years ago after suffering a bout of loneliness herself. Jiumei would work long hours at a rigorous job, and she would feel lonely once she returned home.
Jiumei says, “When I felt so tired at night, I wanted to talk to someone.”
However, Jiumei states that she had lost touch with her old friends, and she did not want to bring distress to her family by mentioning her sadness.
In a moment of inspiration, Jiumei realized that other people were likely to be feeling the same way. She decided then to try and build connections with lonely strangers.
Jiumei started offering her service in February of 2012. She went by the name of the “"woman who sells goodnight”. More than 200 people requested the service for themselves or one of their loved ones.
Jiumei has reportedly sent more than 3,000 messages so far.
Originally, Jiumei simply said “goodnight”, but her messages expanded when regulars began to reply.
Jiumei has even contacted people in other countries such as Saudi Arabia. However, all of her messages are in Chinese.
The service has also gone beyond “goodnight” messages. Some users have requested birthday messages among other occasions. In special circumstances, Jiumei will contact her online friends to all wish a person a happy day.
One young woman who had a birthday that nobody else remembered said that she was touched by all the messages that she received from strangers.
Today, Jiumei is also running a coffee shop in the city of Guangzhou. She says that she is having a difficult time keeping up with the messaging service. She has allowed others to take over her role when she is too busy to do it herself.
Some people have criticized Jiumei for charging for each message, even if it’s only a small amount. But Jiumei claims that she needs to put a small fee on the service, or else she would be bombarded by participants.
Meanwhile, some psychologists are deeply concerned that the service is highly successful. They say that it shows that loneliness is a major issue in humans. People relocate for work and lose their social connections in the process. It can be very challenging to establish new connections.
While a goodnight message might be an affordable solution, there might be a bigger problem here.