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Thursday, October 1st, 2015 18:24

The forums over at track-chinapost.com offer some fascinating sociological observations.

Here we have a place where, for whatever reason1, someone decided to put up a shoestring website to help non-speakers of Chinese with their parcel post to and from China. This person goes by the nick 'chinapostvolunteer', but as far as I can tell, is not definitively associated in any way with China Post2. Many visitors to the site seem to miss this point, apparently believing that China Post's official English support channel is a rudimentary Wordpress site bearing no resemblance to the official China Post site at all.

There are two things that stand out to me, and the second is more interesting than the first.

The first is the sadly-all-too-common bad behaviour we see online -- for instance, the entitlement of people coming onto this forum and DEMANDING someone help them with their parcel!!!!! they NEED REPLY ASAP!!!! That, and the undercurrent of racism -- sometimes much more than an undercurrent -- that oft surfaces whenever somebody's parcel isn't being handled with the expeditiousness they think it is due.

The second point has to do with...well, I'm not quite sure how to describe it, but the best I've come up with is "a lack of awareness of, or experience with, the practicalities of the physical world."

Now, I want to be very clear that I'm not trying to mock these people. I can't help but think this is a product of their environment -- our environment, really. And especially when it comes to things like how the post works, it's definitely a reflection of how the world has changed and continues to change.

Thus, the part where a lot of people don't seem to know how the post works is flatly expected, really. Mail has long ceased to be one of the central tools with which we manage our lives. That said, I was an exchange student in the 1990s, so I'm still kind of gobsmacked when I find out that someone doesn't know what surface mail is. Or when I see someone posting questions that (to my mind) seem straightforwardly dealt with via their own country's local post office.

The most fascinating theme of all, though, is how many folks evince this seeming incredulity at the physical world not moving as fast as the internet one. Sometimes I question whether someone really appreciates how far away China actually is, especially in shipping terms.

Maybe I am misreading this and it is just straight-up impatience, but...I feel like we seem to have developed this expectation that everything moves on Internet Time™. Everything happens very quickly if not right away, everything is available 24/7/365, and to some degree this expectation extends even to the physical world.

All that said, the site is a strangely compelling place to hang out, at least for me. Is it postal geekery? The fact that helping other people with their parcels is a helpful distraction from waiting impatiently for your own? I haven't gotten to the psychosocial bottom of that phenomenon yet. ^_^;

1 Ad revenue, maybe? I can't imagine it amounts to much. ↑back
2 I suppose it's possible this person is someone who actually works for China Post and who is doing this in their off hours? It seems very unlikely though. ↑back

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015 15:02 (UTC)
There is always something so strangely compelling about watching people who are slightly dim or uninformed. Sometimes it's hard to rent yourself away from it.