University Of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
With record levels of forced migrants globally, numerous countries and political parties have engaged in heated debates that focus on the impact of resettling refuges. These discussions relate to the ability of refugees to successfully integrate and how hosting those forcibly displaced might shape national identities, impact the allocation of finite resources and the perceived implications
for security and safety. The use of digital communication technologies and social media raise additional questions about the ways people from refugee backgrounds interact with others in places proximate and distant.
This includes how people source forms of support and establish what is important to their well-being as digital technologies offer the potential for new social configurations and connections. This is particularly the case for refugees, where these technologies generate the opportunity to ‘practise’ friendship and family differently and beyond the accepted social and spatial boundaries of local places.
This paper presents a digital ethnography with 15 people from refugee backgrounds living in New Zealand about how they practise transnational family and friendship through social media and what these interactions represent for their commitments to ‘local’ life in settlement contexts. The study includes multiple interviews with each participant, survey data and 472 social media diaries over a period of 12 months.
This presentation considers the settlement futures of local places and beyond through the ways in which participants stay connected to people living in places proximate and distant through social media and its associated implications for well-being, belonging and working with trauma. It concludes with considerations of what these digitally mediated interactions represent for integration and professional practice during times of rapid political, technological and social change.