Social media induced anxiety.

racism Nov 08, 2020

After watching the Social Dilemma, I made a conscious effort to balance out my so-called algorithm and lean into views that differed from mine (because the show told me to).

It was pretty easy to do as ever since Covid-19 hit, my feed has been sprinkled with a few people dipping their toes into conspiracy theories and more recently, with people (seriously) calling Dan Andrews a dictator… 

I clicked into the posts that these people shared or followed some comment threads that they might have been engaged in which then most definitely shifted the world which social media presented to me.

I thought I’d outsmarted the system and that I’d become a well-informed citizen of the world, however what this left me with was a deep, deep dread that I’ve been unable to shake for the last few weeks. And rather than creating a more balanced and accurate reflection of the world, I would instead feel this threat response rising every time I scrolled and soon, I found myself in a fearful, anxious state.

And then there was China.

Most recently, I learned through this social media “balancing” exercise, that one of the recent protests in Victoria was not so much about the lockdowns in Melbourne, but had more to do with anti-China sentiments. They called it, “stop the sale of Victoria to China”, which in actual fact, is a valid and timely discussion that most definitely needs to be had.

However, the problem with sentiments like this is that the conversation is never an intelligent conversation about international relations, but instead it becomes this ill-informed, racist and xenophobic narrative that allows people to celebrate their hatred of others.

It’s no longer a valid discussion about trade and partnerships, but instead the part about being taken over by “China” and “Communism” becomes the fear-raising and central focus of these protests. It gives people an excuse to hate on East Asians under the disguise of a serious conversation.

But I'm not Chinese...

China is such an interesting topic for us to explore as the Asian Australian community because many of us come from countries that have had, and continue to have, very difficult relationships with China. I think within our community we understand these complex relationships with China, but from the outside, these complexities are often overlooked.

We’ve grown up in a world where if you looked "Chinese", you were Chinese and that means that at times we've felt the need to fight for “Chinese people” (ie. outrage over the boycotting of Chinese businesses at the start of Covid), and other times, we are equally as disturbed as the rest of the world by the force that is China (ie. the recent political shifts in Hong Kong).

But from the outside, and to these protesters in particular, anyone with an East Asian face becomes “Chinese”/an immigrant/someone stealing jobs. We are simplified and pushed into a corner where we somehow find ourselves immersed in a conversation about xenophobia rather than trade relations. And when you get lost in these conversations, you end up feeling like you need to be on the side of “China” if you want to oppose the beliefs of these protesters.

There’s no room to open up an intelligent dialogue about the role that China plays all across Asia and the world because the conversation has been simplified into a fear-based narrative.

It’s a nuanced stance to say, “I’m not pro-China, but I’m also not okay with your racism towards Chinese people” because that to the uneducated brain literally makes no sense.

When the conversation is nuanced, we need an audience that can understand nuance rather than those who can only see things as black and white and it is exactly this conundrum that has been causing me so much anxiety.

All thanks to my algorithm.

And so, I've spent the last few weeks trying to un-dig myself out of the hole I willingly jumped into. These are the steps I took to bring myself back to an okay and functioning state …

Firstly, disengage.

I had a good go at trying to balance out my algorithm, but perhaps it was an unnecessary exercise. I can balance out my left-leaning feed by engaging with the real world and real people and always remaining critically reflective about the content that I consume. For now, rest assured that my feed is back to Shiba videos, random reality TV updates and anti-racism content. 

Secondly, think critically.

After reading comments full of grammatical and spelling errors (and no punctuation?!) my prefrontal cortex caught up with me and reminded me that it is poverty and a lack of understanding and education that causes fear and hate. This gives people no excuse for their racist behaviours however I reminded myself of my power and privilege in this situation. I focused on the control and ability that I have to contribute to a world that is more fair and safe for all people, not just our Asian Australian community. 

 We cannot expect people to become educated and less racist just for the fun of it, we need to create greater accessibility to education or work and actually address the cause of people’s experiences of fear. Well, not me actually addressing it but I’m happy to donate to causes that do! 

Lastly, be complex.

I am making a conscious effort to find ways to celebrate the complexities of my unique Asian Australian identity with other Asian Australians. Years (decades) of being called Chinese or being greeted with a “Ni Hao” strangely makes you adopt this simplified view of what it means to be Asian Australian (ie. Chinese) and it’s ridiculous to think that I’ve allowed others to dictate how I experience my own identity.

Our Asian Australian identities are complex and colourful and we must find spaces where we can celebrate these nuances. We must find communities where we feel safe to be seen and heard for who we are, because it is this experience of being witnessed as our true selves by others that contributes to positive mental health outcomes.

Where are these spaces?

This recent experience, alongside the countless other times where I felt my Asian Australian identity was either erased or simplified, has led me to see the value in creating spaces for Asian Australians to come together. 

I'm looking to launch the Shapes and Sounds Club in early 2021, which will be a space for exactly this purpose. If you're interested in both learning more about yourself as well as celebrating what it means to be Asian Australian in this changing time, make sure to sign up for the waiting list HERE or through the form below. 

You'll be immersed in conversations about race, identity, belonging and how all of these themes intersect with our mental health and wellbeing.

We can't wait to meet you!


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