Stereotypes in Social Media

The goal of social media is to connect people. Platforms like Youtube, Facebook, Instagram, and more recently, Tik Tok, have connected millions of people online by allowing them to share and post content. People on these platforms unite over unifying ideas, like politics or social justice movements. We’ve seen how the connecting power of social media has benefited people around the world. For example, social media allowed movements like Black Lives Matter to quickly gain traction and attention on police brutality towards African Americans. However, we’ve also seen how social media can be used negatively. Misinformation about vaccination and Covid-19 have run rampant on these platforms, costing thousands of lives. It’s important to note that social media can be a tool for great change, but can also damage the thoughts and minds of people around the world.
Although social media has been a tool for great change and a great means for entertainment, this entertainment continues to perpetuate stereotypes about minorities through the form of skits and reenactments. What’s even more alarming is that these videos are often made by minorities. Although this is not as taboo as white people making those videos, I believe that those videos perpetuate harmful stereotypes and aren’t acceptable even if they can be entertaining.
A prime example of this are videos by “Nathan Doan Comedy” on Youtube. His most popular videos feature a character named “Ging Ging” who speaks broken English with a Southeast/East Asian accent whilst wearing a rice hat. This character, the heart of Doan’s comedic videos, possesses extremely small eyes (which are closed in Doan’s videos) and is extremely clueless to western life. For example, not knowing what a toilet is for and using it to wash the dishes. Often the punchlines in these videos rely on the cluelessness of the minority, corrected by the “enlightened” western man. His videos have garnered hundreds of thousands of likes, but perpetuate harmful stereotypes about Asians as being clueless in the western world or having small eyes. Although his videos may be entertaining, using Asian chiches for the sake of entertainment and monetary gain only sends a damaging message to a predominantly white audience.
Tik Tok in particular has risen to meteoric levels of popularity. In particular, videos about Chinese people being pressured by parents to be a “doctor, lawyer, president, engineer, and practice piano/violin” are all the rage. Studying twelve hours a day, studying math, trying to get into a good college, among other things, are the main topics these videos cover and use to create some sort of comedic effect on their audience. The problem is that these beliefs are not prevalent in all Chinese families. Not all Chinese parents want their children to be musical prodigies in Piano or Violin. Not all Chinese parents want their children to be successful doctors, or threaten to disown their children if they do not live up to their standards. Combine these messages with the ultra-digestible content of Tik Tok and you have a dangerous level of race classification that I’m not willing to accept; I won’t accept that the end all be all goal of Chinese parents is for their children to become doctors or to make x amount of dollars.
Stereotyped messages don’t just apply to Southeast Asian people, but to the entire Asian continent and other parts of the world. The cases of demeaning Orientalism or Occidentalism in social media are widespread and concerning. I’m confused as to why there hasn’t been that much attention on these videos which continue to perpetuate harmful messages for the sake of comedy and entertainment. Even if the creators of the videos are the race that they portray, that doesn’t change the bottom line of the harmful stereotypes they perpetuate to a predominantly white audience. Moving forward, it’s important to be mindful of the messages you get from your favorite creators, influencers, and friends. What is seemingly a joke could have darker implications on how the majority views the minority.