The Atlantic

The Meme-ification of Asianness

In the Facebook group Subtle Asian Traits, more than a million young people are articulating what it means to be Asian.
Source: Shizuo Kambayashi / AP

Early every Sunday growing up in Australia, Anne Gu attended Chinese school, the weekend classes where many children of Chinese immigrants learn Mandarin. There, she bonded with her classmates over their shared sense of obligation. “We understood we had to be there because of our culture, our parents,” Gu told us, “while our other friends were sleeping in.”

They kept in touch via group chat, exchanging jokes about life as first-generation Asian Australians. “Someone was like, it would be fun if we made a Facebook group, and we all agreed,” Gu said. In September, she and her friends created a group and added “all the Asian friends” on their Facebook friend lists. They called it Subtle Asian Traits, after a then-popular Facebook group among Aussie teens called Subtle Private School Traits.

The high-school seniors had intended it to be a small community of friends from the Melbourne area, so when its member list ballooned to 1,000 people, “I was like, no way,” Gu said. Three months later, the group is among the most popular on Facebook, with more than

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