Asian American Identity Development In the Age of Social Media

I sometimes wonder how my ethnic identity development process would have been if social media were available during my college years in the 1990′s. This was a formative time for me, when I may have been in the midst of Stage 3 (Awakening of Social Political Consciousness) and Stage 4 (Redirection) of Kim’s Asian American Identity Development Model. I wonder about this when I come across tweets and blogs that remind me of these stages of my life when upon learning about  discrimination against Asian-Americans and from personal experience of what I perceived to be discrimination led me to being more politically aware and active. It was a time when I went through a period of discovery/exploration about my Filipino-American ethnic identity. Some may have perceived me as being angry while some may have viewed me as extreme in how I shared my pride as a Filipino-American.

As I think back to my time in college, I remember the times I watched movies and how I analyzed them from different perspectives.  For me, movies were more than entertainment. They were social and political commentaries. For example, why is it that white male characters are made to look bigger (camera angle points up) and Asian males are made to look smaller? There’s this one time we watched a Bruce Lee movie and a scene of Chuck Norris coming out of a plane shot in an angle which seemingly focused on his crotch. While watching this scene, I expressed to my then girlfriend that it’s Hollywood’s way of showing white male virility and proceeded to share my frustration about the portrayal of Asian men as geeks and asexual.  As the movie went on, I provided commentary on the significance of the characters and how the movie was made in relation to history of racial discrimination against Asian Americans . By the end of this movie, she was very frustrated that she could not enjoy it. I think she even refused to go to movies with me for awhile. I had taken a course on History of Asian Americans in Media where I learned the portrayals of Asian Americans throughout American movie history (Fu Manchu, White Peril, dragon ladies, asexual males, …).  What I learned from that class and my discussions with classmates led me to my extremely pessimistic view of the media, specifically when it came to portrayals of Asian Americans.

In relating to this day and age of social media where I see racism against Asian Americans like this  or this or this, I think how I would have reacted and expressed my views if social media were available at that time. As one who understands the capability afforded by social media as a platform to broadcast opinions/ideas to a large audience and to be able to do it anytime/anywhere with a mobile device, I wonder how my identity development during college would have been impacted by social media.

I suppose at this stage in my life, I’m in stage 5 of Kim’s model (incorporation stage) wherein I’ve come to terms with some aspects of my identity. I will note however that while my views and reactions may be less extreme, there are still many things around me today that really upsets me and I deal with them in my own way. For those who read my blog, you would have read some instances of what  I perceive to be personal experience of discrimination and unfairness. So, the struggle continues.

What’s your identity development process as it relates to social media? What role do social media play? Also, does Kim’s Asian American Identity Development Model resonate with you (if you’re Asian American)? If not Asian American, what model could you use for yourself?

3 thoughts on “Asian American Identity Development In the Age of Social Media

  1. Trish Gomez

    Joe- I’ve reflected a lot on this post as social media became prevalent in my college years. I remember seeing posts about the Virginia Tech shooting– people talked about the shooter being Asian and how people stated that, “you just can’t trust the quiet ones.” I was really angry seeing those words on Facebook and how people generalize racial identities. That is right around the time I was in stage 3 of Kim’s model and transitioning into my Redirection stage. Makes me think a lot about what social media posts would have looked like during 9/11 for our Muslim friends.

    Really great piece for identity development reflection!

    Reply
    1. Joe Sabado

      Trish – thanks so much for reading my post. That’s a really good point about 9/11. As hyper-critical I was back then, I think given the amount of info I would have seen on social media, I’m not sure how I would have responded.

      Reply

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