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Network Diffusion and the Growth of ‘Subtle Asian Traits’


This article discusses the meteoric rise of the Facebook meme page ‘Subtle Asian Traits’, a Facebook group that started in September between 12 Melbourne students and has amassed a following over 639,000 strong in little over two months. The article cites that the reason for the page’s success was the strong community-building aspect of a page that allowed students to bond over shared experiences as the children of Asian migrant parents in various parts of the world. While the meme page has been incredibly beneficial for normalizing certain habits and behaviors that made Asian-American and Asian-Australian children the subject of ridicule in white-dominated spaces, the author identifies that the page also revealed intense colorism in many of its members.

The social commentary in this article is indeed pertinent and a relevant concern, but for this blog post I seek to focus on the effect of network diffusion in Subtle Asian Traits’ massive growth and popularity that connects to our discussion of network diffusion in class.┬áNetwork diffusion studies the decision-making principles that lead people to align their behaviors with their network neighbors. The concept of network diffusion emphasizes the importance of our local networks, and the importance that our friends and close friends play in our choices to adopt certain behaviors. When I was added into Subtle Asian Traits, I was delighted to discover how many friends of mine were already members of this group – I observed them tagging each other in various memes and observing this behavior served to influence my level of activity in the group. I had a choice between low activity or high activity in Subtle Asian Traits, and because the friends close to me were engaging in high activity on the page by commenting on relatable memes, I was incentivized to also participate in high activity on the page. This was one of the moments in which the connections between our lessons in networks and real life became the clearest to me.

From my observations in the behavior on Subtle Asian Traits between friends and close friends, it is evident that network diffusion played a crucial role in the page’s meteoric rise – because people observed their close friends engaging in high activity on a page that fostered feelings of community and shared experience, they also changed their behaviors to engage in high activity on the page as well as invite other friends to join the page and engage in high activity.



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