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‘Subtle Asian Traits’ proves that social media can still be a fun place to be

By: - City Desk Editor / @DLejanoINQ
/ 08:02 PM June 23, 2019

Katherine Woo (left), Director of Product Management for Facebook Groups talks to Anne Scott, Group Admin of Girl Gone International, Vivian Abukater, Group Admin of Maternativa, and Kerry Kang, Group Admin of Subtle Asian Traits during Facebook’s International Press Day held at Menlo Park, California. Photo by Facebook

MENLO PARK, California — Nowadays, people often complain about how toxic social media and the internet, in general, can be. But not if you know where to go.

Take for example “Subtle Asian Traits,” a Facebook group created last September 2018 by nine Chinese-Australian students from Melbourne, Australia who only wanted to have a good laugh and clean fun sharing memes about how it is being an Asian growing up in a western country.

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“My sister came up with the idea (to create a Facebook group) and I pitched it to my friends and we were like ‘Oh, it’s such a great idea, let’s start it,’” 18-year-old Kerry Kang told a group of journalists from Southeast Asia at the sidelines of the International Press Day recently held at the Facebook Headquarters in Menlo Park, California.

Kang, who was only 17 at that time, confessed that he was just sort of looking for a stress reliever as he was preparing for his final exams and did not really expect the group to be such a hit. One million people have joined the Subtle Asian Traits Facebook group just four months after it was created and it currently has 1.4 million members mostly from Australia, US, UK and Canada.

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“It was kind of an overnight thing. We wanted to just add all the friends, and those friends added more friends, and that’s how it kind of grew. We didn’t really advertise so it was kind of an organic growth,” Kang said, attributing the group’s success to the funny and light-hearted content being submitted by members, which they need to approve first before getting posted. 

“It is very relatable to so many people because you have many Asians—first generation immigrants—who come to Australia and America, who have (experienced) growing up in a different lifestyle than what their parents have,” Kang added.

So what types of content can be found in the group? Simple: funny jokes about Asian traits shared by members who have more or less the same experiences living in the West. See samples here:

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Are the people behind Subtle Asian Traits not afraid that the group can become a venue for hate speech and discrimination?

According to Kang, there are subjects that “we really don’t want to talk about, not necessarily to suppress them but because we find them to be very touchy topics. People have different opinions and online, it can get fiery. We try to stay away from political or religious posts because we don’t like that… it’s just not the right space,” he said.

Do they get money from doing this?

“Right now, we do allow a few companies that we find relevant to our group to advertise their products. It’s less about the money that we’re getting but more about what we can give back to the community, what we can give back to all the Asians, because these companies (that we have business with) are Asian-run,” Kang said.

Saying that having created Subtle Asian Traits kind of forced him to grow up, Kang agreed that the experience was indeed life-changing.

“Personally, it forced me to grow up. Last year I was a nobody. Now here I am,” he said, pertaining to granting an interview with international press and being a panelist in a Facebook event on the other side of the world.

Because they need to review all the contents from members, Kang and his co-founders have gathered around 40-50 volunteers around the world tasked to moderate the submissions. In a ballpark figure, Kang said they are receiving 10,000 posts every day. 

“Right now, we’re on 36,000 pending posts—not 36! I wish! It does take time to go through them because we do want to get the right content and not the spammy memes,” he said, adding that they try to get a diverse background of moderators so they can have a wider understanding of the different types of content that they need to review. 

Moving forward, how do they envision the community to be?

“It’s more about awareness. We definitely want to bring awareness to different areas in the Asian culture, especially bridging the gap between Asians and the Western culture, as well as generational differences,” Kang said.

He also wanted to stress that Subtle Asian Traits is just more of a casual thing for them.

“We don’t treat it as a full-time job. For us, we have our own lives. We all go to university, we have separate jobs as well—so it’s kind of just like a fun little thing.”

Aside from Subtle Asian Traits, there are other Facebook groups that prove to accomplish the social media giant’s mission to “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.”

Girl Gone International claims to be the world’s largest female expat community. Currently having 250,000 members from over 150 cities, its mission is to connect women who live abroad online and face-to-face.

Another successful Facebook group is Brazil-based Maternativa, which aims to provide a space to generate content, share information, provide exchanges and experiences related to maternal work.

So whether you’re an avid DIYer, a bubble milk tea lover, a photography enthusiast or someone who enjoys solo travel, there’s always a Facebook group for you to join or even start yourself. And just like what Subtle Asian Traits has proven in a short period of time, it is still possible to build meaningful communities amid today’s negativities. 

TOPICS: Facebook Groups, Social Media, Subtle Asian Traits, technology
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