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Facebook’s “Subtle Asian Traits” Celebrates 2 Years

A Facebook post by admins in the group Subtle Asian Traits (“SAT“) announced its second “birthday” this week.

“Hey SAT family, […] Can you believe today marks 2 years of SAT? Thank you for making this a place where we’ve been able to share our stories, connect with others all over the world, all because we are united by one goal – to celebrate our Asian identity…” the post begins.

This group was founded in 2018 by nine friends who met at a language school in Melbourne, Australia. Since then, it has collected over 1.8 million members from around the world. Subtle Asian Traits is now widely considered a relatable online safe. Members are able to share funny Asian-related memes, personal stories and life experiences, and even ask for advice. The group quickly received media attention from tens of world-famous news outlets as membership exploded in just a few months. It’s even been the topic of sociological and psychological studies on the academic level.

The Atlantic describes the group as a “digital manifestation of a ‘third space'” where members of the Asian diaspora can balance their ethnic, ancestral, and national identities. New York Times similarly describes how its contents have “powered the group’s explosive growth by allowing self- reflection.”

“Underneath the humor, weightier issues have become a topic of discussion, such as the differing expressions of love across cultures and families,” New York Times reported in 2018. The Daily Bruin highlights positive effects of community-building many members have achieved. Most of the 1.8 million members were added to the group by their friends, as everyone is encouraged to “add all your Asian friends”. But SAT has also received plenty of criticism since its creation. One of these criticisms includes SAT‘s heavy focus on the East Asian (especially Chinese) diaspora. This has left other underrepresented Asian groups feeling invisible or even rejected by the Subtle Asian Traits community.

“[SAT] has to be careful about presenting a homogenous message of what Asian American [or the Asian diaspora] is,” says UCLA Asian American Studies Professor Renee Tajima-Peña, according to The Daily Bruin. Young Asians have since begun to “rally against diasporic expectations” and create offshoots for other Asian diaspora groups. A few of these include Subtle Curry Traits (for Indian communities), Subtle Filipino Traits (for Filipinx communities), and Subtle Halfie Traits (for mixed-race communities). Other groups such as Subtle Asian Eats, Subtle Asian Entrepreneurs, and Subtle Asian Mental Health have been inspired by SAT, collecting thousands of members as well.

In spite of backlash SAT has received since its conception, the Facebook post still calls for celebration over just a few of its most recent milestones. One of these milestones includes the launch of an official SAT YouTube channel. With just 2 videos posted to the channel so far, the latest upload celebrates how far the group has come in the past 2 years. “With 2,300 languages, 48 countries, 4.5 billion people spread across 30% of the Earth’s land mass, it’s safe to say that Asia, its cultures, and subcultures are incredibly diverse,” the video opens.

“It’s been a tough, heartbreaking, and stressful year for all of us… This year has been about adapting, and facing adversity together,” the SAT Admin’s Facebook post concludes. “There has without a doubt been hardships and challenges. But by sticking by us, you have helped us learn more about Asian culture, adapt to new situations, and even help us grow and develop as individuals.”

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