The relationship between the use of social network and migrants' self-identity

With globalization and advances in communication & transport, the number of people interested in, and able to, migrate to another place has been growing. In order to safeguard the rights of migrants, the United Nations proclaimed December 18th International Migrants Day in 2000. Migrants bring new challenges and opportunities to various parts of the world, and the integration of these people in societies to which they move is a topic of great interest. Particularly, we have identified the trend of migrants from mainland China using social media for self-identity in Macao. Let's have a look at this together.

Social networks have created a vast virtual world. It only takes one opinion to create division within a group or to unite completely divergent parties. Despite the nature of these virtual environments, the words, images or even emojis used create an identity molded in accordance with one's wishes. These characteristics are particularly evident in groups of migrants, when the question of identity is especially relevant.


Migrants move around the world, either voluntarily or involuntarily. Some academics point out that social networks help these migrants to focus on their individuality, inserted in a world characterized by culture, personal interests and emotions, transcending geographical limitations. Regardless of the distance these migrants travel, on a psychological level they will always find a home in the world of social networks.


What's the relationship between the use of social networks and migrants' self-identity?

On one hand, if the migrant in question identifies more with the values ​​of the place of destination, but is excluded from the migrant community during this integration process, they would use social networks popular in the place they now live, to rediscover their new identity and offset the psychological burden of previous rejection.


On the other hand, in the process of integrating the culture of the place of destination, some migrants cannot relate with locals in terms of values, and therefore, choose to use only social media commonly used back home, in order to feel connected with their place of origin.


At the same time, when there are comments that are unfavorable to their place of origin in social media commonly used in place of destination, these migrants will feel discriminated against, and will also tend to adopt an evasive attitude and return to the use of media in their place of origin. For example, some migrants from the Mainland in Hong Kong and Macao encounter negative comments about them on Facebook, and they would refuse to use this platform. They would rather use media such as WeChat and Weibo, which could invisibly strengthen their original identity.


In addition, if the migrant thinks that the economic level or cultural atmosphere of their place of destination is not as good as the development of their place of origin, even if an account is created on the social media commonly used in their place of destination, the things they share on this platform will still be set to highlight the identity of their place of origin.


There is also another group of migrants who have not experienced the education process where they live, as they are not part of a social circle in this place, making their integration even more difficult. However, when they return to their region, a feeling of distance remains and all their subordinate relationship disappears.


This group is thus lost, questioning “where am I from?”, moving between social networks of various origins. This access to varied information will help to define an identity, but it is a construction that goes through a dynamic multifaceted process.


It can be seen from the above that the use of different social media reflects the direction of immigrants’ identity. In view of this, when promoting cultural exchange activities between immigrant groups and local groups, it is not necessary to limit the promotion to media in specific areas. Instead, we should consider the social media that the target groups will use and disseminate information on these platforms. This will not only improve the efficiency of propaganda, but also send a signal of friendship and proximity to migrant groups. In addition, how can the multiple characteristics of migrant identity be transformed into cosmopolitanism? This is a question worth considering from a long-term perspective.


This article is also published on Plataforma, released on 2021/12/24: https://cutt.ly/pUbGrfI (Chinese & Portuguese)


Article by Sylvia Lao, translated by Wawa Lok

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