Yesterday marked Singles' Day in China, which got its name from the four solitary digits of the date 11/11. Singles' Day was created due to an increasing number of singletons. A survey carried by the Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs in 2011 found that the number of single men and women in China had reached 180 million.
This festival was initially celebrated in universities, before extending to wider society in recent years. Because of its broad social concern, Singles' Day has been intensively used as a marketing ploy for discounts and special offers, which has helped drive its popularity. In 2010, Taobao, China's biggest online shopping site, launched a major promotional campaign themed around Singles' Day and netted 936 million yuan ($149.8 million) in sales in one day. In 2011, orders on Taobao Mall were worth 3.36 billion yuan on the same day. This year, this number set a new record because in the first 37 minutes alone, the turnover on Taobao had exceeded 1 billion yuan.
It seems that Singles' Day is gradually turning into a carnival of shopping. With its commercialization, our focus has shifted from concern with single people to crass consumerism. We are used to the existence of a large number of singles and to celebrate Singles' Day with them.
But it is not a healthy social phenomenon for so many people to be living a single life. The increase in their numbers is a byproduct of rapid social development. Current society is fast-paced and high-pressured within which love is a time-consuming and high-cost activity for many young people. Inflation and sustained high housing prices increase the cost of marriage. These social problems make wedded bliss a luxury to those who lack financial security.
The era when marriages were arranged is long gone. People have more freedom to select their mates, but it is increasingly difficult for them to choose one because of material obstacles. Singles' Day shows a culture that is happily more tolerant toward singles but also reflects many people's helplessness at unaffordable marriages.
Merchants will search for other promotional tools after Singles' Day and the public's focus will move on. However, the social problems that singles are facing may soon be neglected. These problems should not be covered by commercialization of Singles' Day, but require long-term public attention and thought.