Bullet chat, the live commenting function pioneered by Bilibili, has become an essential part of the video-watching experience. With the number of monthly active users reaching over 267 million, the company also announced that it reached a milestone of 10 billion total bullet chats sent.
The term “Po Fang Le” originally came from the gaming community. Gamers use the term when they are attacked and their defenses have been broken down. The term, similar to the English phrases, “this really got me” or “I’m shook”, is now used beyond the gaming world and has become a catch phrase that young people use to express that something has left them emotionally vulnerable or shaken by strong feelings. One example is when someone has been deeply touched by a moving story or is feeling helpless under immense stress.
The bullet chat “Po Fang Le” can be found overlaid on many Bilibili videos, ranging from the touching moments of peoples’ daily lives to major events happening around the nation. Users have sent bullet chats in a variety of different situations. One chat can be seen on a video of a teacher teaching his last class before leaving his job; another of athletes competing at the Tokyo Olympic Games; and yet another of rescue teams saving citizens trapped during the Henan floods.
“The popularity of the term ‘Po Fang Le’ reflects an increased empathy in the young generations of China,” said Sun Ping, Deputy Director of the Institute of Journalism and Communications at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. “This particular bullet chat vividly demonstrates how young people have emotional passion and cultural resonance.”
This is the fifth consecutive year for Bilibili to announce the “Bullet Chat of the Year”. The 2020 winner was “my youth is making a comeback” (“Ye Qing Hui” in Chinese), a phrase that expresses nostalgia of one’s youth. “AWSL”, a simple way of saying “this is killing me” in Chinese, ranked number one in 2019. This phrase was often used when seeing an extremely cute or exciting video. The winning bullet chat of 2018, “real”, expressed how users felt when seeing situations that seemed closer to their own real-life experiences.