A Jewish proverb says to “praise the young and they will blossom”, and Chinese youngsters seem to be taking this to heart by seeking positive reinforcement through a social media chat group — at 40 yuan (US$6) a time.

Fast becoming a popular app among college students, “kuakua gun” has much the same function for  WeChat users as “likes” on Facebook, which is still forbidden in China. Young people hope to get endorsements from their friends and anyone else who saw their message.

For example, someone might say “I insist on not eating rice, but I cannot resist dessert. Give me a praise.” Within seconds, someone will say: “You have a sense of dieting, and you did not overeat. Praise!” Choosing words like “marvelous”, “awesome” and “wonderful” helps to keep the ball of compliments rolling.

When there is a social demand, a business opportunity will never be far away. According to Technode, a group of “professional praisers” are now available to hand out complimentary messages to a user for a prearranged amount of time, and money.

One service on Taobao suggests that online users “spend 40 yuan (US$6) for an hour of praises”; in  return, they will get a load of complimentary messages. Another shop offers a premium product aimed at  humanities students from the top schools, such as Peking University, Tsinghua University and Fudan University, and charges 80 yuan for five minutes of nonstop compliments.

Praise groups evolved from Doubin, a social entertainment platform set up in 2014 that offers a feature called “mutual praise group”. The intention, as explained by one user, is to “discover truth, kindness and beauty, and encourage each other”.

There is also an emerging corporate market for praises. According to local media outlets, some companies are willing to pay 500 yuan ($74.50) an hour to professional praisers to offer positive energy to users.