Among the more than 1.4 billion bullet chats sent on the short video platform Bilibili over the past year, the term “AWSL” was crowned the “2019 Bilibili’s Bullet Chat of the Year” after it appeared more than 3.3 million times between Dec. 1, 2018 and Nov. 30, 2019.
Bullet chats are the platform’s real-time audience feedback overlaying on-screen content. Among them, “AWSL” is an acronym of the Chinese expression “啊，我死了!” (“Ah, wo si le!”).
The expression is an emotional phrase expressing one’s affection, amusement and excitement when watching a Bilibili video, making use of Bilibili’s unique interactive user interface. “AWSL” is similar to the colloquial English expression “This is killing me” or “I’m dying,” phrases that are often said in casual conversation when something, especially on social media, is found to be extremely cute, exciting, funny or unique.
The popularity of “AWSL” across Bilibili bullet chats is not accidental, however, according to Gao Hanning, a post-doctorate at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Institute of Literature. “Snippy and spontaneous, AWSL reflects contemporary youth culture, a great medium for online interaction,” Gao said.
2019 Bilibili Top 10 Bullet Chats
“This is killing me” or “I’m dying” in response to something particularly cute, exciting, fun or unique
An emotional, touching, or sentimental moment
An iconic, classic or well-known scene
Something that is original, marvelous or fantastic
A reference to a song featured as background music in Initial D, a Japanese street racing manga series. The phrase is mostly used when viewers react to scenes of cars racing or drifting.
Yes, I can
A phrase used when one is strongly interested or excited about someone or something.
A phrase meaning “you belong” or “you are not alone.”
Adding a finishing touch or something unique or meaningful in the process of creation to elevate the quality or significance of the work.
A phrase said when the plot of a video, game or show begins to hit the peak of its story arc.
A reaction to the ending of a video, game, or show suggesting that the ending is expected.
However, AWSL is not the only phrase that has become popular across Bilibili’s signature bullet chats.
Since Bilibili began its annual bullet chat ranking in 2017, the top 10 results have provided a unique insight into the evolution of China’s Generation Z youth culture, or the trends belonging to young Chinese born between 1990 and 2009.
The list ranges from “囍” (or “Double Happiness” in Chinese), the inaugural winner of 2017, to last year’s “real”. This year’s winner, “AWSL,” was joined in the top 10 rankings of 2019 by phrases like “teary-eyed,” “iconic,” and “ingenious.”
Bullet chats have become an increasingly important way for young people to express themselves in China, particularly among Generation Z. Over the past 12 months, bullet chat use has grown from 1 billion chats in 2018 to 1.4 billion in 2019. Each month, over 128 million active users on Bilibili develop connections on the platform with one another through bullet chats.
A key reason for the growing popularity of bullet chats is that they foster a highly interactive and enjoyable viewing experience that allows users to make connections with others online who may share similar aspirations and interests.
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