[KS] A peek into the life of modern Korean youth. (Cyber addiction)
webmaster at henny-savenije.pe.kr
Wed Feb 8 10:08:52 EST 2006
I think many of you might find the following articles interesting
'I Was a Cyholic, a Cyworld Addict'
Citizen reporter Jennifer Park recounts her
plunge into a realm of alter egos and big business
I was a cyholic, a Cyworld addict.
Each morning I woke up with blood shot eyes and a
headache. That was nothing compared to more
serious symptoms I eventually developed after
being "on" Cyworld. I found myself turning into a
serious exhibitionist and a stalker, a common
symptom for cyholics. I will share my experience
after "overdose" of Cyworld and what I have
learned through the process of rehabilitation.
I used Cyworld to visit my friends' mini home
pages provided to all members. Having witnessed
how addictive Cyworld was, I kept away from my
own home page. When my friends tried to lure me
into becoming a cyholic, I thought I could resist. I was wrong.
When I saw that the rise in number of visitors to
my home page, I needed to do something to keep
them coming. That number gave me an incentive to "open" my home.
My new home had a personal profile, diary, mini
room, photo album, bulletin board and message
board options. I didn't need to pay "rent" but
could simply "move in." The mini room came with
an empty room and a character figure called "mini
me" representing the user. I could change its
facial expression, body position, hair and its
clothing. I used to spend hours playing with
Barbie dolls during my childhood, and one would
have thought I grew out of it. Wrong! Mini me was my new best friend.
I wasn't the only one lost in this "Barbie
business." Through a unique system of "forming
kinship," which can be accomplished with two
users' consent, I met many members of the cyholic
gang. The list of my kin kept expanding and the
hidden pressure started to reveal itself. I felt
obligated to visit my kin often to maintain
"kinship." Many of my so-called kin were people I barely knew.
This sort of phenomenon is common in online
social networks. People tend to label those they
do not know well as friends, perhaps for
political reasons or to meet more friends through
their so-called friends. I felt compelled to
prolong the phony relationship because each user
can find out whom out of your kin list did not
visit you in the past month. Though this is
intended to help people get along, it quickly becomes an unwelcome duty.
An example mini home page
Thus my addiction. For people living or studying
abroad like myself, Cyworld is an alternative to
international phone calls. With Cyworld, I did
not miss out on life in Korea. It showed no
clear-cut line between countries. Cyworld was
just another living space and all Cyworld users
had that common identity. I thought it was a
cheap way to stay in touch with my friends.
Most of my friends had entered Cyworld before me
and their mini rooms showed just that. They had
tons of digital items such as fancy wallpapers,
furniture, pets and more. Their number of
visitors exceeded mine by far, triggering my ambition and jealousy.
As a cyholic, I unconsciously associated
popularity with the number of visitors and
believed that the number corresponded to how nice
the mini room appeared. Decorating is a necessity
in running Cyworld. My mini room only had a free
wallpaper and mini me. I craved "acorns."
All digital items are purchased with cyber money
called acorns, the main source of Cyworld's
profit. One acorn, equivalent to 100 won (about 9
cents), can be paid via several methods, such as
a credit card or cell phone account. Cyholics
also go through the phase of being a shopaholic.
I no longer daydreamed about a guy, but acorns
and things to buy with them. Because Cyworld was
clever enough to substitute money with a harmless
object like an acorn, I rarely felt like I was being a spendthrift.
I was convinced that I was doing some good when
giving someone a gift. In an interview with
Chosun.com, the head of Cyworld division at SK
Communications Lee Dong Hyeong stated, "The art
of living is giving as much as you receive."
This seems like an ideal way of maintaining
kinship, but don't forget that acorns are needed
to make this possible. Cyworld displays the
number of gifts received on each users' front
page to motivate them to exchange gifts. This
relationship appears healthy and necessary, but
it boils down to helping Cyworld's bottom line.
A Cyworld "success" graph
Cyworld displays your popularity on your front
page, fueling the addiction. The bar graph
compels you to seek acorns night and day. Each
bar is labeled "sexiness," "fame,"
"friendliness," "karma" and "kindness." Cyworld
knows that Koreans tend to be ambitious and
ostentatious. They use this knowledge to display
the front page with a measurement of "success."
Your "fame" increases each time you accumulate
ten visitors. "Sexiness," "friendliness," "karma"
and "kindness" go up when you give or receive
gifts. Cyworld accumulates more visitors and acorns in this way.
Cyworld wasn't always this successful. The reason
it was able to beat other home page services was
because Freechal, once the most popular home page
company, took the bold step of deciding to charge
their services. Cyworld used this chance and
pledged to operate free of charge for life,
prompting Freechal users like myself to jump ship.
When Cyworld introduced its mini home page
service in 2001 it had one million members. Its
members skyrocketed in late 2003 when Freechal
started its fee-based system. Cyworld has 7 million users as of July 2004.
Ironically, people like myself who abandoned
Freechal because of its fee unknowingly invest
great sum of money in Cyworld. When I buy a frame
cover said to last for 30 days at the cost of 20
acorns, I am investing 2,000 won ($1.72) and feel
compelled to buy a new one when it expires.
Recently Cyworld's daily income ranged from 70
million won to 103 million won ($60,280-$88,780).
This means that cyholics buy around one million acorns a day.
Cyworld's main page
Cyworld's success is recognized by all ".com"
industries in Korea. Founder Lee Dong Hyeong sold
his company to SK Communications because he
lacked the necessary funds to operate his
ballooning enterprise. SK Communications has
since made a lot of money after incorporating Cyworld with Nate.com.
Nate.com was ranked third after SK merged the two
corporations. Cyworld's profit then increased by
60 percent and "Cyworld fever" is everywhere.
Instead of asking for a phone number or e-mail
address, people ask, "do you Cy?" SK
Communications even made it possible to check
mini home pages through cell phones, so people
can take Cyworld with them everywhere they go.
Cyworld expanded its sphere of influence with a
function called "people search," allowing a user
to find any Cyworld user by typing in their name,
year of birth and gender or by entering an e-mail
address. This allows people to contact someone
they have lost touch with. According to one
29-year-old housewife in Seoul, this has been a
useful tool to find friends she lost touch with after she married.
On the other hand, some people use this tool for
stalking or to send unsolicited messages
encouraging people to visit their page. And some
employers take an advantage of this system to
keep an eye on their employees. Many online
network users should keep in mind that they may
have to pay consequences for their freedom of expression.
Cyworld makes it easy to get addicted. A single
click on the name of any Cyworld user will hook you into Cyworld for hours.
A diagram of "kinships"
I kept on committing the sin of saying "just one
more" which turned out to be all night. It only
takes a second to load someone else's page, but
the time consumed in posting and reading the
message board and checking out the album is
substantial. When you see someone familiar or
attractive in that home page, you simply click
and skip over to that other person's home page and repeat the process.
After I became a true cyholic, I often visited my
ex-boyfriend's mini home. It started as mere
curiosity and ended almost like stalking. Cyworld
makes what is impossible in real life possible in
cyber world. I live far from my ex-boyfriend and
can't invest the money and time required to hunt
him down. So I simply "hired" Cyworld to do the
spying for me. Peeking at his mood indicator,
message, board, and album, I knew exactly what
was going on in his life. The only thing that
stopped me from stalking him was the messages
that his friends left on his board congratulating
him on finding a new girlfriend.
I found out how serious the Cyworld phenomenon
was when I discovered it was taking over reality.
A person my friend introduced to me was the owner
of a page I recalled from my friend's message
board. Scary as it may sound, I knew exactly
where the person was going to school and who he was friends with.
I felt like a stalker but couldn't help but to
ask, "You are friends with xxx, right?" What
shocked me even more was his response. "You just
graduated from xyz school in abc, right? I saw
you in my friend yyy's Cyworld." We knew personal
details about each other -- though we'd never met.
There is no embarrassment in confessing to be a
stalker because, ironically, people enjoy being
stalked. According to one 29-year-old man,
knowing that a woman he was interested in was
visiting his home page, he shaped his image through Cyworld and won her love.
Cyworld was for me another realm, perhaps more
real than the real world. What I got in return
for making others happy were red eyes and a
headache. I came to find that there is so much to
enjoy in life when you say "no" to Cyworld.
I no longer rely on others to judge me by how I
appear in the cyber world, because many of that's
not the "real me." I still visit Cyworld and some
friends still visit my Cyworld. I guess I am not
fully rehabilitated, but I no longer depend on
some corporation to run my life for me.
Here's a similar one
Henny (Lee Hae Kang)
http://www.henny-savenije.pe.kr Portal to all my sites
(in English) Feel free to discover Korea with Hendrick Hamel (1653-1666)
http://www.hendrick-hamel.henny-savenije.pe.kr/indexk2.htm In Korean
http://www.hendrick-hamel.henny-savenije.pe.kr/Dutch In Dutch
http://www.vos.henny-savenije.pe.kr Frits Vos
Article about Witsen and Eibokken and his first Korean-Dutch dictionary
English) Korea through Western Cartographic eyes
http://www.hwasong.henny-savenije.pe.kr Hwasong the fortress in Suwon
http://www.oldKorea.henny-savenije.pe.kr Old Korea in pictures
http://www.british.henny-savenije.pe.kr A British encounter in Pusan (1797)
http://www.henny-savenije.pe.kr/bboard Bulletin board for Korean studies
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