“内” means “inward,” “卷” means “to curl,” and “化” means “process.” This term, translated from the English word “involution,” literally means “shrinking.” Clifford Geertz defines “involution” as the phenomenon found in some agrarian societies when population growth is coupled with a decrease in per capita wealth. Chinese netizens have used the term in a more general sense, where over competition has forced all competitors to suffer from extreme stress.
Nǐ zěnme mènmèn-búlè？
You look unhappy. Why?
Wǒ zài zhǔnbèi kǎoyán，kěshì jīnnián shòu yìqíng yǐngxiǎng chūguó de rén shǎole，gūjì kǎoyán gèngjiā kùnnán le。
I am preparing for the graduate program entrance exams. But with fewer people heading overseas to study in the pandemic, passing the exams will be more difficult.
Nǐ chéngjì nàme hǎo，jiù búyào yǒu zhèzhǒng nèijuànhuà jiāolǜ le。
You are a top student, and need not worry about the fierce competition.