Chinese Couple in Germany
Chinese bridal couples pose in front of a castle in Germany. Reuters

The social pressure on single adults in China can be immense. With family already breathing down China’s bachelors' and bachelorettes' necks, Valentine’s Day can be especially difficult.

According to the Shanghai Morning Post, a group of unattached Internet users banded together via a crowd-funding website to play a little prank on those in relationships. The newspaper reports that no couples will be able to sit together during the Valentine’s night screening of the Chinese film "Beijing Love Story" at a local theater. The single men and women intentionally purchased every other seat in the theater, forcing any pairings of people to separate.

“Want to see a movie on Valentine’s Day?” an online message by the stunt organizer, going by the user name “UP,” read. “Sorry, you’ll have to sit separately. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” UP, a self-described “computer nerd,” has been single since last year, after he and his girlfriend broke up. Speaking to the newspaper, he explained how difficult it was to pull off the stunt. “In the beginning, I wanted to buy all the tickets [online] but I discovered the theater’s ticketing software wouldn’t let me,” he said. “Then I went there in person to see if I could buy directly, but because of Valentine’s Day, tickets were being sold at a fast rate -- especially for romance movies. The theater folks wouldn’t sell them all to me.”

That’s when he turned to others online to help him out. To his surprise, there was good response from single people who wanted to participate in the practical joke. And the response to the story online has been mostly supportive, with many on Weibo, China’s vocal microblog community, calling the stunt “awesome” and “hilarious.” Some found solace in the fact that other people will be celebrating alone, but together. "Nice to see a group of single people doing something fun and funny on the day instead of being bitter," one blogger wrote.

A mixture of changing societal values and old policies have contributed to China’s growing population of single people. The lasting effects of China’s One Child Policy, which was relaxed at the beginning of this year, can be seen in a subset of Chinese men that have been dubbed “bare branch bachelors.” As a result of the policy, Chinese families often resorted to abortion or infanticide of female babies to make sure they had boys, and that has created an extremely uneven gender distribution in the country. Recent research puts the ratio at roughly 122 males to every 100 females, making pairing off a woman’s game in China.

On the other hand, women have increasingly rejected the traditional notion of getting married and starting families in their early 20s as the population becomes more educated and career-oriented.

Despite these changes, the pressure to settle down can be felt by both genders. Single women in their late 20s and beyond are often given the unfortunate nickname of “leftover woman.”

Valentine’s Day, a Western import, was never seriously celebrated in the past in China. But as the nation as a whole takes steps towards increased commercialism and consumerism, the Feb. 14 celebration of love has slowly become increasingly important among the Chinese middle class. As a result, a rebellious response to the commercialized day was born. China’s Single’s Day, which occurs on Nov. 11, because of the symbolism of the four single digits in “11/11,” is just as commercialized, and celebrated as a massive online shopping event comparable to Black Friday, celebrating the country’s single people.